First, let's not confuse my question with typical skin peel when your body part slip on a road and get that typical red colored skin due to blood. It's not like blood is flowing, but clearly red area is visible due to some upper skin damage. This often happen when you fall from motorcycle and friction between your body part and the road (especially when you're not wearing riding gear).


I read somewhere that skin abrasion is considered open wound which definitely can cause rabies spread if it came in contact with virus.

My question is more about non bloody/reddish skin imperfection of any human body part for some reason. The similar peeling can occur for many other reasons. E.g. when hands or even toes have been wet for long time then the palm or finger tips, toe skin is more likely to peel if someone manually tried to peel it.

Important thing is - it usually doesn't cause any noticeable pain or blood.

Here is an example that will clarify a little:


It's like the skin is peeled (manually or through some disease). There's no blood though as upper layer usually doesn't cause pain.

But unlike this palm skin if someone tries to peel the opposite side of their palm (I mean the skin where there are hairs on skin i.e., the back side of hand), it is more likely to give pain and cause red area/blood.

So the focus of my question is around an imperfection of a skin which doesn't have blood and pain.

Here's the thing I'm curious about:

Suppose a dog has rabies virus in its saliva. And we collect the sample in a glass. And then make a contact (like submerging for few minutes) with the saliva with the human part.

In simple terms, that particular part of human body has touched that saliva.

Now I'm interested in knowing how likely is rabies virus will enter the body through this kind of imperfect human part when you perform this "experiment"?

Why am I interested in knowing this?

I belong to a developing country where education system is not good enough. So you can't expect a college professor in average college to answer you about this. And top colleges need high skills. I want to educate myself and people around me. Most people around me know that you can get rabies only when a dog bites you and a lot of blood is flowing. Which I think misses a lot of information or it is incomplete.

What I've studied so far is this:

  • Rabies virus can spread through bites (which is easy to understand because wound is deep)

  • It can spread through wounds which are deep or at least have blood (I'm really not sure if my example is considered a wound or not )

  • Saliva of a dog will contain the rabies virus after the incubation period (read here) But in my question, let's assume dog saliva contains the rabies virus

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    $\begingroup$ You asked this question a few months back. This is a medical question, as it concerns your skin lesions. We cannot predict how likely it is in every situation; strange things can happen, but usually don’t. How likely is it that someone will be killed by a stone gargoyle breaking loose from an old building a moment before they walk by? Highly unlikely but it has happened. The CDC has a lot of good information on rabies which might reassure you. No one, though, can predict with any accuracy a one-off event. $\endgroup$ Jun 9 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse where did I say "my skin" or "your skin"? If someone asks a question about skin, human gut, immune system, cell, human muscle, baldness, retina etc. (which of course are posted here usually) that doesn't make it "my" or "your" body part. It's a general question. $\endgroup$
    – vivek
    Jun 11 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ If we were not aware of your previous question, the present question (which contains long passages verbatim from the personal medical question you asked), maybe this would “fly”. However, the problem exists that this is a thinly veiled personal medical question. At least you have your answer. $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse okay. The thing is I did not try to hide my past history. It's public. But I really don't think dragging my past history into this separate question to prove it a personal medical question is a "Be nice be respectful policy". That is what close votes and down votes are for. And why do you think there haven't been many personal medical questions already haven't "flown"? Or won't fly in the future? Irrespective of the past, my whole intention was to get educated and educate people around me on this topic. $\endgroup$
    – vivek
    Jun 12 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ One thing I would point out is that no one in their right mind would collect the saliva of a rabid dog then submerge their broken skin into it. So what, exactly, are you educating the public about? Have you seen this done? Have you tried to talk people out of this? The answer given, which is rock-solid, concerns people who have come into contact with dogs they have assumed to be a non-risk for rabies, and paid the ultimate price for their mistake. The scenario you propose is unfathomable… $\endgroup$ Jun 12 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


I don't think anyone can give a good estimate for the risk from such exposure, but it is not zero. From “Scratches/Abrasions without Bleeding” Cause Rabies: A 7 Years Rabies Death Review from Medical College Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India:

We investigated 19 deaths due to rabies in the past 7-year period. Of these, five were caused by “scratches/abrasions without any bleeding” and no postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) was sought. All injuries were caused either by unvaccinated pups below 3 months of age or by stray unvaccinated dogs. Four deaths were of patients who received proper wound care along with minimum 3 doses of intramuscular rabies vaccination, but rabies immunoglobulins (RIG) were not given or were not available. In eight cases, no PEP was sought as the patients were either not aware of its need or the PEP facility was far away or the PEP cost was not affordable or deceased believed that pups below 3 months of age do not carry a risk of rabies. In one case, the patient was bitten by a cat 2 years back. Majority patients belonged to rural and remote areas. Five of the deaths in our study were because of not seeking prophylaxis as abrasions/scratches without bleeding were not thought to carry a risk of rabies. In the Philippines, a rabies death review of 1839 patients demonstrates that all deaths were due to dog related injuries including bites and scratches.1 In Iran[2] four people having scratches on their hands were infected with the saliva of rabid animals and died due to rabies, there was no history of bites. In our death review also, deaths caused by “scratches/abrasions without blood” amply demonstrate the ability of the rabies virus to enter nerves through dermis due to broken skin and its capacity to cause rabies.

So, clearly, bleeding at least is not necessary for infection. My guess would be that many skin conditions would provide the virus enough access to susceptible cells that infection could result. Personally I would seek treatment after any exposure to potentially infected saliva, even on completely healthy skin.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That is helpful information. I wonder why some users are reluctant on sharing information on this topic. I know it's not easy to answer but not every answer needs exact and 100% fool proof facts right? $\endgroup$
    – vivek
    Jun 11 at 9:47

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