NEWSWEEK – A deadly disease fatal to rabbits in around 80 percent of cases is spreading across the U.S., with new cases now confirmed in Florida.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease does not affect human health but is highly infectious and frequently fatal to both wild and domestic rabbits, with a fatality rate of between 80 and 100 percent.
The strain of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease currently affecting the U.S. is known as RHDV2. This is a virus that affects rabbits over a three to nine-day incubation period.
Symptoms in infected animals including lethargy, weight loss and hemorrhages from various orifices such as the nose or eyes.
It is spread by coming into direct contact with live or dead infected rabbits, or by contaminated surfaces such as their bedding. It can also be spread by rabbits orally and through skin trauma.
Death in infected rabbits typically occurs within one to three days.
The presence of the RHDV-2 strain of the virus was discovered in multiple states last year, and new cases identified in New York and Florida suggests it is continuing to spread in the U.S.
According to Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), two cases of the disease have been confirmed—one in Lake County and another, more recent case, in St John’s County.
The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (NASDA) said on December 15 that a case of the virus had been confirmed in a domestic rabbit in Montgomery County. It said it there was an ongoing investigation into the source of the infection.
“This is the second occurrence of RHDV2 in New York,” the NASDA statement said. “The first cluster of cases was in New York City in March 2020. The virus was quickly identified, isolated and eradicated … “