Did you know that the state of Texas has been funding a program to wipe out rabies in foxes and coyotes by dropping vaccines for it from airplanes. It’s called the Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Project, and it’s been a smashing success.
The program began in 1995 as a desperate experiment. The most serious outbreak of dog rabies in the United States in decades had moved within 40 miles of San Antonio, killing two people in its path, as it swept northward from Mexico, spread by infected coyotes.
Hundreds of animals, including pets and livestock, were infected and died. Some 2,000 people received post-exposure shots. And a separate outbreak of rabies in foxes that began in West Texas had already reached the San Antonio area.
Since then, millions of baits have been dropped over Texas. By 2004, the federal government declared the canine strain eliminated from the state.
And although the last rabid fox was found in Wink, near the New Mexico border, in May 2009, health officials want to make sure it, too, is gone before declaring victory.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Dr. Ernest Oertli, a veterinarian who heads the program for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “I’m sure it’s what was felt with polio and pox, when you can say – even within this one geographical area – that public health is making a difference.”
Yes, that’s the government at work, running a program that saves lives. Who knew they did that, right? You can learn more about it here. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a wildlife rabies program as well, aimed at rabies in raccoons, which has also been quite successful. There’s still skunk rabies, which officials here hope to combat next, and bat rabies, for which there isn’t a plan just yet. Still a pretty nifty accomplishment, and something to keep in your back pocket the next time you hear some nihilist denigrate what government can do.