Texas Rabies Control Flights Resume

The program will distribute about 1 million doses of vaccine this year during approximately two weeks, depending on weather and other conditions.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced that 2018 flights of its Oral Rabies Vaccination Program would resume on Jan. 10. An annual effort to control rabies in the state since 1995, these aircraft flights drop packets of rabies vaccine over wild areas of the state to vaccinate wildlife and prevent them from exposing livestock and people to the deadly virus.

The program will distribute about 1 million doses of vaccine this year during approximately two weeks, depending on weather and other conditions. Flights were scheduled to begin Jan. 10 from the Zapata County Airport in Zapata before moving to Del Rio International Airport on Jan. 14 and to Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport in Alpine on Jan. 20.

DSHS said the program began in 1995 in response to major outbreaks of the canine strain of rabies in southern Texas and the gray fox type of rabies in western Texas -- outbreaks that involved hundreds of animal cases, caused two human deaths, and forced thousands of people to get costly post-exposure treatments. "Over the next several years, the program dramatically reduced the number of canine and gray fox rabies cases in Texas, and no cases have been detected since 2013. Efforts are now focused on a 25-mile wide swath along the border from the Rio Grande Valley to Big Bend to vaccinate animals migrating into the state and keep those strains from being reintroduced," the agency reported. "The vaccine has proven safe in more than 60 species of animals and is not a danger to humans, but people should avoid handling the vaccine baits because human contact makes it less likely wild animals will eat them. Dogs, cats and livestock that eat the vaccine baits are not considered vaccinated against rabies."

DSHS reminds state residents to have their pets vaccinated as required by law. Although the program has eliminated some types of rabies, bats and skunks are still significant carriers of rabies in Texas, and there are hundreds of animal cases every year, according to the agency.

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