Rabies is one of the most severe communicable diseases in Ethiopia, with many cases of the disease diagnosed in many parts of the country. For example, a study in Addis Ababa showed that about 73% of street dogs are infected with rabies virus and more than 2,000 people annually received treatment for rabies after a dog bite. Children are particularly vulnerable to being bitten by dogs, and about 40% of all cases are children under 15 years.
The rabies virus exists in the saliva of the infected animal (as well as in its nervous system) and is transmitted to a person through a bite. Transmission can also be if an infected animal licks a fresh break in the person's skin or mucus membranes, e.g. in the mouth (see Table 38.1 later, for different exposure categories). The virus travels in the nerves to the brain, where it causes inflammation. Person-to-person transmission is theoretically possible if someone with advanced rabies bites another human, but this is not known to have occurred.