Vaccine Airdrops Target Rabies in Texas

News Release
News Release
February 2, 2016

News Release
Jan. 11, 2016

The Texas Department of StateHealth Services’ successful Oral Rabies Vaccination Program again takes flight thisweek to prevent two strains of rabies from making a comeback in the state and toresume a study of whether the same approach can effectively fight rabies inskunks.

The ORVP was firstlaunched in 1995 in the middle of a massive outbreak of rabies in coyotes andgray foxes in Texas. Each winter since, DSHS has dropped doses of rabiesvaccine from aircraft over wildlife habitat in the state. When wild animals eatthe vaccine packets, coated in tasty fishmeal crumbles, they become immune andcan’t spread rabies to livestock, pets or people.

“We’ve been ableto eliminate the coyote and gray fox strains of rabies from Texas but need tocontinue to distribute vaccine along the Rio Grande to prevent wild animalsthat migrate across the border from reintroducing the disease,” said Dr. LauraRobinson, ORVP director. “We also continue to evaluate whether the same method canhelp eliminate rabies in skunks in our test area of east-central Texas. If itdoes prove effective, it could be used elsewhere.”

Planeswill take off from La Grange Tuesday afternoon to begin flights over the skunkstudy area, covering portions of 17 counties from Madison and Walker in thenorth, southwest to Bastrop, then southeast to Wharton and Fort Bend.Operations at La Grange will take about a week, weather permitting, before crewsmove to the border area for flights from Del Rio and then Alpine and Zapata. Theproject is expected to be complete around Feb. 1.

DSHS will host a media availability at FayetteRegional Air Center, 850 Airport Road, La Grange, from 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday,Jan. 13. Media can obtain audio and video of planes being loaded, taking offand landing and interviews with key program staff.

The ORVP will dropapproximately 1 million doses of vaccine along the border this year and 1.4million in the skunk study area. The vaccine has proven safe in more than 60species of animals and is not a danger to humans, but people should avoidhandling the vaccine baits because human contact makes it less likely wildanimals will eat them. Dogs, cats and livestock that eat the vaccine baits arenot considered vaccinated against rabies.

Rabiesis a deadly virus spread through the saliva of infected animals, usually by abite. Preventing rabies is critical because once a person or animal displays clinicalsigns, the disease is almost always fatal. Immunizing domestic animals iscrucial to stopping the spread of rabies. DSHS urges everyone to have theirpets vaccinated as required by law.

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(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)

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