Read about the rabies epidemic that caused the creation of ORVP and how the program continues to reduce cases and keep Texans safe.
About The Program
Two rabies epizootics (large disease outbreaks in animals) began in 1988, involving Texas fox (TF) rabies virus variant in gray fox populations in west/west-central Texas and domestic dog-coyote (DDC) rabies virus variant in coyote populations in south Texas. These epizootics presented a major health threat to people, as these viruses were capable of sustained intra-species transmission within populations of gray foxes and coyotes as well domestic dogs. In 1994, Texas Governor Ann Richards declared the two rabies epizootics to be a state health emergency. In response, ZCB initiated the ORVP in 1995 and through this program has put forth considerable resources and effort to contain the spread of these epizootics and ultimately to eliminate both of these rabies virus variants from Texas. Annual ORVP campaigns since 1995 have eliminated the DDC rabies variant from south Texas and decreased the area affected by, and decreased the number of cases of, the TF variant in west/west-central Texas. The current goals of the ORVP are to prevent the re-introduction into south Texas of the DDC rabies strain from Mexico and to eliminate the TF rabies strain from west/west-central Texas. As the program in south Texas has transitioned to a "maintenance" project, available resources have been shifted to the west/west-central Texas program. Through the ORVP project, Texas is at the national forefront of rabies control in terrestrial wildlife reservoirs.
Since 1996, we’ve been working to end rabies in coyotes and gray foxes in South and West Central Texas. Once a year, airplanes drop an oral vaccine, with a bait attractant of fish oil and coated in fishmeal crumbles, on the targeted areas. The goal is to maintain a zone of vaccinated wildlife along the US-Mexico border to prevent the reintroduction of rabies. Extensive research in a wide variety of species has shown the vaccine to be very safe.
The Texas Department of State Health Services Zoonosis Control Branch completed the 2023 Oral Rabies Vaccination Program’s aerial distribution of oral rabies vaccine baits for wildlife on January 21st. The campaign distributed approximately 836,000 individual vaccine baits along parts of the Texas-Mexico border over a period of approximately two weeks. Target wildlife species include coyotes and gray foxes. Anyone finding one of the vaccine baits is encouraged to leave it alone as wildlife can smell the human scent. The vaccine will not hurt pets or livestock if they consume one of the vaccine baits; it cannot be used in domestic animals as a substitute for the rabies vaccine administered by a veterinarian. You should wash your hands with soap and water if you have skin contact with the liquid portion (vaccine); if you have an immunocompromising health condition, please inform your family physician immediately about your contact with a live vaccine. Contact with a vaccine bait should also be reported to the Zoonosis Control Branch by calling 1-877-722-6725 or 512-776-7676.
View the 2023 Distribution Zone
View the Daily Report for activities, distribution amounts, and distance flown daily
View participant photos from the January 2023 Campaign
View the ORVP brochure
Learn more about Rabies
Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program Photo Archives