Rabbits Are Spreading A Virus Around The United States

Matt Lillywhite

Texas Parks and Wildlife are concerned about Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. It has been found in Texas, Arizona, California, and several other states.

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Multiple states are currently struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. But unfortunately, that's not the only disease the U.S. is having to deal with during 2021. The reason? Local officials are concerned that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) is spreading amongst the animal population in Texas and several other states.

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Map of counties where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease has been confirmedUSDA

Since March 2020, multiple cases have been identified in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, and several other places (as you can see from the above map). So, the local animal population has been dealing with a highly deadly virus while we've been battling Covid-19.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has confirmed RHDV2 in the rabbit population of several counties around Texas. These are Brewster, Cottle, Culberson, El Paso, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Lubbock, Pecos, Presidio, Randall, Terrell, and Ward counties.

Although RDHV2 isn't dangerous to humans, we can unknowingly transmit it to wild animals and cause untold amounts of death. For example, the virus could easily be transported from one part of the state to another if someone carried it on their clothing or shoes. And if that were to happen in Texas (or anywhere else), the consequences for local animals would be devastating. Quoting the United States Department of Agriculture:

"RHDV2 is highly contagious and, unlike other rabbit hemorrhagic disease viruses, it affects both domestic and wild rabbits. Many times, 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."

If you own rabbits or live in an area where wild rabbits are prevalent, it's important to remember that RHDV2 vaccines haven't been approved in the United States. So, take proper biosecurity measures whenever you're around animals that are sick or dead. After all, the disease has already caused a lot of havoc in several other countries around the world. Quoting a study that discusses the history of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease:

"In the 1980s, the European rabbit populations were devastated by a new viral disease characterized by being extremely lethal and highly contagious in both domestic and wild rabbits. The first outbreak of this new disease, designated as rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), was noticed in 1984 in the Jiangsu Province of the People's Republic of China within a group of commercially-bred Angora rabbits imported from Germany. In less than a year, RHD killed 140 million domestic rabbits in China and spread over an area of 50 000 km squared."

Are you concerned about outbreaks of disease amongst animals in Texas? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered health advice. Please consult a doctor or veterinarian before making any significant decisions that may impact an animal's health.

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