Deadly virus threatens to wipe out entire population of rabbits

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 is lethal to wild and domestic rabbits but does not affect humans or domestic animals other than rabbits

Louise Boyle
New York
Tuesday 19 May 2020 16:14 BST
New virus kills rabbits in Arizona

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


A highly contagious and deadly virus is sweeping across the US and threatening rabbits.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 is lethal to wild and domestic rabbits, but does not affect humans or domestic animals other than rabbits, according to US Fish and Wildlife (USFW).

Infected rabbits may exhibit no symptoms before suddenly dying, or they may suffer fever, swelling, internal bleeding and liver failure.

The disease is not connected to coronavirus and it only spreads among rabbits, hares and pikas - the rabbit's small mountain-dwelling cousin.

The disease has been found in rabbits in western states but the disease has spread quickly and if it goes unchecked, it could decimate wild rabbit populations.​

“Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators,” said Deana Clifford, a CDFW senior wildlife veterinarian told the Associated Press.

USFW asked those who came across sightings of sick or dead rabbits to report the issue but be careful to not handle carcasses to minimise spread of the virus, which is described as very hardy. Hunters are urged to take precautions as well.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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