USDA Cooperates With Texas To Stop Spread Of Rabies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is cooperating with the Texas Department of Health and other state and federal agencies to drop more than 2.7 million vaccine-laced baits to stop the spread of canine rabies in Texas.

"The purpose of the program is to contain canine rabies within the state's geographic boundaries, eliminate the threat of rabies to humans, and protect agricultural resources," said Michael V. Dunn, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

The rabies containment program began on January 6. The vaccine bait will be distributed from airplanes in Central and South Texas during a one-month period. "The goal of the bait drop is to produce a zone of vaccinated coyotes along the edge of the South Texas canine rabies epizootic (epidemic in animals) and produce a zone of vaccinated gray foxes along the periphery of the West-Central Texas gray fox rabies epizootic," said Bobby R. Acord, deputy administrator for wildlife services with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area.

The canine rabies epizootic began in South Texas in 1988 and rapidly spread northward. Bait drops were started in 1995 to stop the spread and eventually eliminate rabies. The bait drops have been conducted each year during the winter. The bait drops have been effective as confirmed through surveillance of rabies cases and statistical methods.

Since 1990, four people have died in Texas from exposure to rabies, and thousands have undergone post exposure rabies treatment. Bait drops have proven to be an effective way to combat the problem.

USDA's wildlife services is working cooperatively with the Texas Department of Health, the lead agency in the program. Other cooperators include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas National Guard, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas Wildlife Damage Management Service, Texas A&M University System, and Queens University, Kingston, Ontario.

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