January 3, 2011
The Texas Department of State Health Services this week begins its annual
airdrop of rabies vaccine baits over portions of southern and western Texas in
the continuing effort to protect people and livestock from rabies. Planes will
take off from airports in Zapata and Fort Stockton around dawn Thursday, Jan. 6
and drop about 2.35 million doses of rabies vaccine over the next few weeks as
part of the DSHS Oral Rabies Vaccination Program.
“This approach has been a huge success,” said veterinarian Ernest Oertli, the
vaccination program’s director. “We haven’t seen a single human case of rabies
in the areas covered by the program since it started in 1995, and the number of
animal cases has dropped dramatically.”
Animal cases of the canine strain of rabies in southern Texas fell from 122
in 1994 to zero in 2000. There have since been single cases in 2001 and 2004.
The fox strain, prevalent in western Texas, dropped from 244 animal cases in
1995, the year before the project expanded to that area, to zero through the
first 11 months of 2010.
“We have effectively eliminated these two strains of rabies from Texas,” said
Oertli. “Now our goal is prevent them from being reintroduced as animals move in
and out of the state.”
The vaccine dose is enclosed in a small packet either coated with fish meal
crumbles or inserted into a small, hollow fish meal block. The baits don’t pose
any risk to humans, but people should avoid handling them since human contact
makes it less likely a wild animal will eat the baits.
Rabies is a deadly virus spread through the saliva of infected animals,
usually by a bite. Preventing rabies is critical because once a person or animal
displays symptoms, the disease is almost always fatal.
DSHS urges everyone to have their pets vaccinated against rabies, as required
by law. Vaccinating domestic animals is essential to stopping the spread of
(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Assistant
Press Officer, 512-458-7753)
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