Rabies Vaccine Airdrops Resume Along Border

News Release
January 8, 2020

News Release
Jan. 8, 2020

The Texas Department of StateHealth Services’ successful Oral Rabies Vaccination Program gets off to aflying start today in its annual mission to protect people and animals from thedeadly disease. This is the 26th year that aircraft have droppedpackets of rabies vaccine over rural areas of the state to vaccinate wildlifeand prevent them from exposing pets, livestock and humans to the deadly virus.

Approximately 1 million doses ofvaccine will be distributed over the next two weeks, depending on weather andother conditions. Flights out of Zapata County Airport in Zapata begin on Wednesday,Jan. 8 before moving to Del Rio International Airport in Del Rio on Jan. 12 andto Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport in Alpine on Jan. 18.

In 1995, the Texas Oral RabiesVaccination Program was developed in response to major outbreaks of the caninestrain of rabies in southern Texas and the gray fox type of rabies in westernTexas. The outbreaks involved hundreds of animal cases, caused two human deathsand forced thousands of people to get expensive post-exposure treatments.

Over the next several years, theprogram eliminated the canine and gray fox strains of rabies from Texas. Effortsare now concentrated on a 25-mile wide swath along the border from the RioGrande Valley to Big Bend.

“Our goal is to vaccinate animalsmigrating into the state and keep those strains from being reintroduced,” saidDr. Laura Robinson, ORVP director. “This year vaccine baits will be distributedin 19 counties along the border.”

The vaccine is contained in smallplastic packets covered in fishmeal crumbles to make them more attractive forwildlife to eat. The vaccine has proven safe in more than 60 species of animalsand is not a danger to humans. People should avoid handling the vaccine baitsbecause human contact makes it less likely wild animals will eat them. Dogs,cats and livestock that eat the vaccine baits are not considered vaccinatedagainst rabies.

Rabies is spread through the salivaof infected animals, usually by a bite. Preventing rabies is critical becauseonce a person or animal displays symptoms, the disease is almost always fatal.

Immunizing domestic animals is animportant part of stopping the spread of rabies, and DSHS urges everyone tohave their pets vaccinated as required by law. While the ORVP has eliminatedsome types of rabies, bats and skunks remain significant sources of the diseasein Texas, and there are hundreds of animal cases every year.

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(News Media Contact: Lara Anton, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)

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