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State Oral Rabies Vaccination Program Resumes

Department of State Health Services

The Texas Department of State Health Services is starting flights today as part of its Oral Rabies Vaccination Program. The plan is to prevent two strains of rabies from making a comeback in the state and to resume a study of whether the same approach can effectively fight rabies in skunks.

The program was first launched in 1995 in the middle of a massive outbreak of rabies in coyotes and gray foxes in Texas. In recent years State Health Services has been targeting skunks with air drops of the vaccine, according to spokesman Chris Van Deusen.

“The vaccine itself is in a little packet,” said Van Deusen. “It looks like a fast food ketchup packet and it’s coated with fishmeal crumbles which makes it attractive for animals to eat. So they take a bite into it, it releases the vaccine and they ingest it that way.”

The flights begin Tuesday from La Grange and will continue until February 1 covering a large area.

“It’s all or portions of 17 counties kind of running from north of Houston back toward the Austin area, but not quite to Travis County, and then southeast again to south of Houston,” said Van Deusen. “And then we also do now every year, kind of a strip along the border that helps keep the animals that are migrating into the state from reintroducing rabies.”

Approximately one million doses of the vaccine will be dropped along the border and 1.4 million in the skunk study area.