AUSTIN (KXAN) — A program in its 27th year will once again drop bait laced with an oral rabies vaccine along the U.S.-Mexico border to help vaccinate animals in the area against the deadly disease.
On Monday, the Oral Rabies Vaccination Program started flights from Zapata. In the next two weeks, aircraft flying out of there, Del Rio and Alpine-Casparis will drop 1.15 million baits from the air to 19 counties along the border. Meanwhile, at the end of January, people working in public health in El Paso and South Texas will drop off more vaccine baits from the ground.
The baits are small, plastic packets that have been dipped in fish oil and coated with fishmeal, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. It says the vaccine is safe for a wide-variety of species.
“Neither humans nor animals are in danger of developing rabies if they are exposed to the vaccine,” DSHS said, adding that the disease is normally spread after people or animals are bitten by an infected animal and that it’s usually fatal for those that develop symptoms.
Money for the $2 million program comes from the State of Texas and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife Services.
The first year of the program was 1995, when Texas experienced an outbreak of rabies caused by a dog/coyote variant that led to 122 cases in 1994. By 2000, there were zero cases, and have only been two since then, both along the southern border. In 1996, the state did the same program in response to a gray fox rabies outbreak.
Texas concentrates its efforts on the border to vaccinate migrating wildlife and keep it from reintroducing strains that have been squashed. Bats and skunks are the most common sources of rabies in the state.