Is decapitation absolutely necessary to check for rabies?


Can’t seem to find clear answers anywhere. I’m aware that the brain is what’s tested for rabies, so hopefully my questions aren’t too stupid.


1. Is decapitation absolutely necessary?
2. If so, is it because it’s harder to get to an animal’s brain while the head is still attached to the body, or is it something else?
3. Is a rabies check standard protocol for all animal attacks, or do they skip it if the subject was visibly and explicitly rabid?
4. Pertaining to the last part of the previous question, if a human is infected, do they have to be decapitated for testing upon death as well?

In: Biology

Decapitation isn’t necessarily needed, but it’s a lot easier to transport a head than an entire body. As for standard procedure after an infected human dies, I don’t know. Usually people get a rabies shot of there’s any chance they were bit because it’s a death sentence if symptoms appear.

1. The rabies virus travels along the nerves. Only a brain stem sample would be able to tell you if the virus had traveled far enough up the nerves to cause the typical rabies symptoms. You couldn’t take a sample of say a leg nerve.

2. That is the reason yes. Also a lot of times testing needs to be done in specialized labs, and to save of shipping costs only the head is sent off.

3. As far as I’m aware if you suspect rabies the head must be tested (I’m in Europe tho not the US). Rabies is a disease that is legally combatted by vaccination campaigns, any cases must be reported and confirmed by a test.

4. I work with animals not humans, but working on the assumption that the virus behaves in similar ways, yes you would need to decapitate a human as well to test them.

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