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Deadly virus killing rabbits

Highly contagious viral disease is spreading across North America, killing both wild and domestic rabbits.


Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a fatal disease in rabbits and is classified as a foreign animal disease in the United States. In February 2020, animal health officials detected rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 (RHDV2) for the third time in the United States since 2018. Since that detection, RHDV2 has spread to multiple states across the Southwest. RHDV2 does not impact human health.


RHDV2 is highly contagious and, unlike other rabbit hemorrhagic disease viruses, it affects both domestic and wild rabbits (including hares, jackrabbits, and cottontails). Often the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs.


In February 2020, RHDV2 was detected in a domestic rabbit in New York City. The virus was quickly identified, isolated and eradicated. There does not appear to be an epidemiological link, but the disease was later confirmed in a rabbit in New Mexico in March 2020. Since then, RHDV2 has continued to spread in New Mexico and across multiple states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas. It was also detected in domestic rabbits in Utah this week.


How RHDV2 Spreads

The RHDV2 virus is very resistant to extreme temperatures. It can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can also survive and spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. The virus can survive in the environment for an extended period of time. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes.


Reportable Disease

RHDV2 is a reportable disease in Wyoming and the United States and anyone suspecting the disease in domestic rabbits are required to report to the State Veterinarian and USDA APHIS immediately. If a case in a domestic rabbit is suspected in Wyoming, veterinarians should contact USDA APHIS or the Wyoming State Veterinarian’s office at 307-857-4140 or 307-777-6440.


Further reading here.

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