Rabies virus is in the Rhabdoviridae family. The virus cannot live outside its host's body for more than a couple of seconds, but live virus has been found in animals that have been dead as long as 48 hours.
Rabies usually is transmitted through infected saliva as a result of a bite from an infected animal. Rarely, it is transmitted by viral contamination of a fresh wound, through a scratch, or through contamination of a mucous membrane (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth). There have been reports of rabies being transmitted through the air in bat-infested caves.