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What Does "Exposure" Mean?
What is the definition of "exposure" to rabies?
Rabies is transmitted by introducing the virus into open cuts or wounds such as a bite, or by contact with mucous membranes. There are 2 primary types of exposure:
1) Bite (higher risk)-This would include any penetration of skin by an animal's teeth. Bites to the face and hands or multiple bites carry the highest risk.
2) Non-bite (lower risk)-Scratches or abrasions received from an animal, or the contamination of open cuts, wounds, or mucous membranes with an animal's saliva, brain, or other neural tissue. Non-bite transmission of rabies is rare.
Other contact such as petting or handling an animal, or coming into contact with the blood, feces, or urine of an animal does not constitute exposure and does not require rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
Possible exposure to a bat:
Contact with a bat as defined above under 1) and 2) constitutes exposure. In addition, due to cases of bat-variant rabies in persons with no known history of exposure to bats, PEP may be appropriate even in the absence of an obvious bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure in situations where there is a reasonable probability that exposure could have occurred. These situations would include a bat being found in a room with a sleeping person, a child, or a mentally disabled or intoxicated person.
For any special circumstance, contact your local health department for assistance in making decisions about what constitutes an exposure.
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