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Supplies of Human Rabies Vaccine Low Across Texas

July 1, 2008

By Dan X. McGraw, The Dallas Morning News

Jul. 1–The supply of human rabies vaccines in Texas is at a historically low level, but health officials say it doesn’t pose a threat to the public.

Two manufacturers of the vaccine reduced supplies this year because of contamination problems and plant closures, prompting a nationwide shortage of vaccines, said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

As a result, the state of Texas has stopped stockpiling the vaccine. Doctors in the Lone Star state will now have to order the vaccines directly from the manufacturer to ensure that there is enough to go around for all confirmed cases. The vaccine is usually delivered within 24 hours.

“It isn’t something that the public needs to be concerned about yet,” Mr. McBride said. “It could become a bigger problem, but we aren’t going to speculate on that.”

State health officials aren’t sure exactly how many vaccines remain because supplies are scattered across the state in local health agencies.

Supplies are expected to increase later this month or in August when manufacturers boost production.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans, and it is often transmitted through a bite from an infected animal, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If untreated, it can be fatal.

But exposure is relatively rare. In 2007, at least 1,300 vaccines were administered to people in Texas, involving nearly 1,000 animals, Mr. McBride said. Eight cases of animal rabies were reported in Dallas County, according to state health statistics. Six of those cases involved skunks.

This year, rabid skunks have been reported in Fort Worth, Denton County and Burleson, city and county officials reported.

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