(KYTX) - A Texas agency is getting a head start on preventing rabies before warmer weather hits.
Beginning Wednesday, the Department of State Health Services will launch its 20th annual airdrop of rabies vaccines across Texas.
The vaccines look like little ketchup packets. They're coated with fish meal crumbles to attract wildlife. When wildlife eat these packets, they become vaccinated against rabies.
This year, the department is piloting an expanded effort to vaccinate skunks.
Those are the leading cause of rabies in East Texas.
They may look cute and fluffy, but David Sierra with Texas Parks and Wildlife in Tyler says these black and white creatures pose major problems in our area.
"The number of rabid cases in Texas- 9/10 times, it's probably going to be a skunk."
"It's really critical to prevent rabies from developing." says Christine Mann with the Texas Department of State Health Services. "Once a person displays symptoms, it's almost always fatal. So, it is a serious or deadly virus. And, that's why we're trying to prevent rabies in wild animals with this program."
Sierra says the annual airdrop of vaccines has helped combat the virus significantly over the years.
"I think it's shown remarkable improvement as far as the number of cases. I mean, it does work. It is effective."
Even though the Department of State Health Services is targeting skunks this year, Sierra says you'll still want to be careful as we head into Spring and Summer.
"If it's not afraid of you, or it's aggressive and they're out during the daytime, there's something wrong."
He says you don't want to take a chance on your pet's protection against those animals.
"Please, cats, dogs need to be vaccinated, even if they're inside animals."
After all, the law says they have to be protected
If you see an animal acting strange, call animal control. Do not try to take care of the animal yourself.
About 2.5 million doses of the vaccine will be dropped.
Those with the Department of State Health Services say the vaccines are not dangerous for humans, but we still shouldn't touch them. Our scent on the vaccines makes it less likely wild animals will eat them.