Texas Air-Drops 1 Million Rabies Vaccine Packets

FDA approved rabies vaccines for humans include Imovax and RabAvert

gray fox

Winter 2019 marks the 25th year that aircrafts in Texas will drop packets of rabies vaccine over wild areas to vaccinate wildlife and prevent the spread of this deadly virus. 

According to a website alert, the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) Oral Rabies Vaccination Program (ORVP) successfully distributed approximately 1 million vaccine doses on January 22, 2019. 

This is good news since preventing rabies in humans is critical because the disease is almost always fatal. 

The Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program was developed during 1995 in response to major outbreaks of the canine strain of rabies in southern Texas and the gray fox type of rabies in western Texas. 

Those outbreaks involved hundreds of animal cases, caused 2 human deaths and forced thousands of people to get costly post-exposure, rabies treatments. 

Over the next several years, the program almost completely eliminated canine and gray fox rabies from Texas. 

The ORVP now concentrates its efforts on a 25-mile wide swath along the Rio Grande Valley to Big Bend, Texas. 

While the ORVP has eliminated some types of rabies, bats and skunks remain significant carriers of the disease in Texas, and there are hundreds of animal cases every year. 

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The rabies vaccine has proven safe in more than 60 species of animals and is not a danger to humans. The vaccine is contained in small plastic packets covered in fishmeal crumbles to make them more attractive for wildlife to eat. 

People should avoid handling the vaccine baits because human contact makes it less likely wild animals will eat them. Dogs, cats, and livestock that eat the vaccine baits are not considered vaccinated against rabies. 

Rabies is spread to humans through the saliva of infected animals, usually by a bite. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 23 human cases of rabies have been reported in the United States between 2008-2017. Eight of these cases were contracted outside of the U.S. and its territories. 

There are 2 vaccines approved in the USA, both contain inactivated rabies virus, and are considered as equally safe and effective: 

  • HDCV vaccine (Imovax) is produced in human diploid cell culture.
  • PCECV vaccine (RabAvert) is produced in chick embryo cell culture.

Immunizing domestic animals is an important part of stopping the spread of rabies, and DSHS urges everyone to have their pets vaccinated as required by law.