Ha ha ha––rabies wipe out!

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:

AUSTIN, Tex.––Aircraft
on January 6 began dropping 1.5
million oral rabies vaccine pellets
over 42,00 square miles in 66
Texas counties, the anticipated last
salvo in a three-year drive to eradicate
the only major rabies outbreak
among coyotes ever reported.
Canine rabies in all
species is down 98% in south
Texas since the vaccine drops
began, at cost of about $4 million a
year––a fraction of the $63 million
estimated cost of human health care
alone if the job hadn’t been done.
“We started with the
hope of containing the virus,”
Texas Department of Health Oral
Rabies Vaccination Project director
Gayne Fearneyhough told Anna M.
Tinsley of the Corpus Christi
Caller-Times, “but it soon became
obvious that we could contain and
eliminate this rabies strain from
very large geographic areas.”

Successive drops begun
in 1995 gradually pushed rabies
outbreaks from the outskirts of San
Antonio to the Rio Grande, where
Fearneyhough hopes to maintain a
permanent vaccine barrier.
A joint U.S./Canadian
drop of 70,000 vaccine pellets over
northwestern Vermont in May 1997
to slow or stop the spread of raccoon
rabies immunized just 16 of
151 raccoons who were trapped
and tested for antibodies, the
USDA reported in December
1997––a mere 11%, less than half
the 25% to 50% immunization rate
achieved by other vaccine drops.
Because the results were so poor,
project coordinators from Cornell
University and the wildlife and
health departments of Vermont,
Quebec, and Ontario suspect the
problem was with how the bait pellets
were made, not with the vaccination
method. The prevailing theory
is that the raccoons swallowed
the pellets whole, instead of puncturing
them to release the vaccine
A 70% immunization rate
is generally believed to be necessary
to stop the spread of disease.
Most oral rabies vaccination campaigns
have reached this target with
the second or third pellet drop.
Inspired by the success of
oral rabies vaccination in western
Europe over the past 14 years, the
World Health Organization has
declared a goal of eradicating
rabies globally. Comparing firstquarter
reported rabies cases:

Nation 1983 1997
Austria 404 5
Belgium 208 6
France 802 1
Germany 2,764 34
Italy 93 0
Switzerland 213 0
The Netherlands 1 0

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