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If animals saliva touches open wound, What are the chances of getting rabies?

Apr 2013
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General Surgeon
Practicing since : 2008
Answered : 9248 Questions
I live in Philadelphia. On Thursday night I saw a stray cat and called it over. While it was calm and displayed no signs of rabies, it did graze its head against my hand (which has small cuts from hangnails and such) as I was petting it. The snout was a little wet, but it wasn't drooling. I even picked it up and put it on a bench. I saw it two nights later. I don't think it's rabid, but I heard that if an animal's saliva touches an open wound (like my hangnails), you could get rabies. I'm probably being paranoid, but I'm wondering if I should seek treatment, especially since the disease is so deadly.
Posted Thu, 23 May 2013 in Infections
Answered by Dr. Ivan R. Rommstein 2 hours later
Hi and welcome to XXXXXXX Thank you for your querry.
I understand your concerns, rabies is serious infection but I dont think you should worry and there are several reasons for that:
The incidence of rabies among cats is fairly low,especailly in developed world. Most of rabies is found in wild animals. So cats and dogs can be, but not commonly, infected.

Rabies virus is present in the saliva of an infected animal,but not always. Even after bite of infected animal there is usually no enough viruses in saliva to cause transmission. Also this bite wound must be deep enough to cause vessel injury and active bleeding.

Also, rabid animals are usualy easily recognized,f rom the frothing mouth and otherwise unhealthy appearance. It can still be rabid even if it doesn't look rabid, but it further reduces the odds that the animal was.

SO the possiblity of transmission by saliva thrugh hangnails even if this cat was infected is theoretical. In practice, it's virtually almost impossible.

If you dont trust you can have antirabic Ig or vaccine at your GP, but I dont think this is neccessary.
WIsh you good health. If you have any question I ll be glad to help.
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