Sept. 10, 2013
The Texas Department of State Health Services is expanding a pilot program aimed at reducing the number of rabid skunks in the state. About 100,000 baits containing rabies vaccine will be distributed by two helicopters in wildlife habitat and rural areas of Fort Bend and Waller counties next week.
DSHS, Fort Bend County Animal Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel distributed vaccine baits to two areas in Fort Bend County in Sept. 2012. This year, a third zone, between U.S. Highway 290 and Interstate Highway 10 in Waller County, will be added.
A media availability will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Houston Executive Airport, 1900 Cardiff Road in Brookshire. Audio and video opportunities include aircraft taking off, landing and being loaded and interviews with key staff.
The vaccine is contained in a small plastic packet coated with fishmeal crumbles to make it attractive for wildlife to eat. The vaccine has proven safe in more than 60 species of animals and is not a danger to humans, but people should avoid handling baits because human contact makes it less likely animals will eat them.
The skunk vaccination program is still in its trial phase. While results from the first year are encouraging, DSHS is still gathering information about the effectiveness of the vaccine in skunks and the ideal concentration of baits to create immunity in the skunk population. The trial is part of Texas’ very successful oral rabies vaccination program. Begun in 1995, the program has eliminated the canine strain of rabies and virtually eliminated the gray fox strain of rabies from the state.
Rabies is a viral illness usually transmitted via the bite of an infected animal, and it can have a major impact on wildlife, livestock and humans. Preventing rabies is critical because once a person or animal displays symptoms, the disease is almost always fatal.
State law requires people to vaccinate their dogs and cats against rabies. Vaccinating pets helps stop the spread of rabies and acts as a barrier to transmission from wild animals to humans.
(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)
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