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Do Rats Carry Rabies?

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What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease that can be transmitted from animal to animal and from animal to human via the infected animal’s saliva. Thus, humans can get infected by the virus if:
- They are bitten by a rabid animal
- An open wound or cracked skin gets licked by a rabid animal
- They have been scratched by claws covered with saliva from a rabid animal.

Rabies cannot be transmitted through urine or blood, or via petting a rabid animal. Once the virus gets into the human body, it would attach itself to nerve cells and gradually destroy the nervous system. If the situation is not medically arrested, the rabies goes on to attack the brain, finally killing its victim.

While all animal bites are potentially dangerous and should be given prompt attention, individuals that get bitten by primary rabies-carrying animals must of necessity receive immediate medical care. This is so, even if the bite is small and appears not infected. This is because of the high risk associated with contacting the disease.

Rats as Carriers
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), rats and other small rodents have not been known to transmit the rabies virus to humans. Although there are rare cases of wild rats transmitting rabies outside of the United States, the primary carriers of rabies are raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, and coyotes. It is altogether rare for rats, mice, squirrels, hamsters and gerbils to be infected with rabies.

Rats are therefore not considered to be a serious risk in the transmission of rabies disease. It is not necessary to take rabies shots after being bitten by a rat, although victims should seek medical attention to forestall the transmission of other infections.

The Dry Bite Theory
It is believed in some circles that rats have a dry bite. This suggests that even if a rat were to survive the rabid bite of a bigger animal and then gets to bite a human, transmission of the rabies virus would be impossible because the rat has a dry bite.

It is believed that the forward position of rat teeth prevents the teeth from being wet with saliva. And since rabies gets transmitted via saliva of infected animals, it means that an infected rat would not still be able to transmit the disease with a bite.

However, this is not true because rats have been known to transmit other saliva-borne infections like rat-bite fever, septic arthritis, and ratpox. Go back to the Rat Removal page or read my guide for How to get rid of rats.

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