January 23, 2014
The Texas Department of State Health Services is expanding a pilot program aimed at reducing the number of rabid skunks in the state. Approximately 1.2 million baits containing rabies vaccine will be distributed throughout the week by five airplanes in wildlife habitat and rural areas of East-Central Texas starting Friday, Jan 24 (weather permitting).
DSHS first targeted skunks with limited vaccine drops in 2012 and 2013 in Fort Bend and Waller counties near Houston. This year, portions of 17 counties in East-Central Texas will be involved. (See list of counties below.)
A media availability will be held Monday, Jan. 27 at 9:30 a.m. at Fayette Regional Air Center, 850 Airport Road in La Grange. 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 two years 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 expanded pilot 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.
For more information, visit www.TexasORVP.org.
Counties included in the expanded skunk study area:
(News Media Contact: Christine Mann, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7511 or 512-971-4234)
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