Texas has annually taken to the air to fight the ground war on rabies. Over the last 18 years planes were loaded with hundreds and thousands of packets of rabies vaccines that are dipped in fish oil and fish meat. They will deploy 1.8 million packets this year over a larger area of rural south and west Texas.
The goal of this eradication effort is to vaccinate the foxes and coyotes in the rural areas to create a natural buffer zone from rabies that maybe passing into Texas from Mexico and surrounding areas. This program targets only fox and coyote transmitted rabies but is good start to keep enzootic levels down within these animals since they often have contact with livestock and humans. With the success of this program they will move onto skunk rabies.
The vaccination occurs when the animals eat the fish oil covered packets. January is the optimal time for this operation because food is in short supply because of the winter months and the bait becomes very enticing. Texas scientists got the idea for this aerial baiting system for the distribution of rabies vaccines from a program that was occurring in Canada. This method along with laws that mandate pet rabies vaccines keep rabies levels at an all time low.
Through the 18 years of running this program canine associated rabies fell from 122 to 0, and fox strain rabies fell from 244 to 0. Since the air drop began there have been no human cases of rabies in that region. This immunity circle is really doing its job in keeping rabies from spreading in wildlife and ultimately in the human population.
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