Rabbit hunters on the eastern seaboard be warned—Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDVT2) appears to be spreading in a select few states and Canada. Rabbits have been reported as dropping dead from the sickness in Quebec, Connecticut, New York and South Carolina. While this is reason for pause, there is as of yet no reason for panic. In Connecticut where the disease was discovered, 14 rabbits died in a herd, with the initial 13 succumbing during the first 24 hours. A similar story came out of Greenville County, South Carolina where most of a feral herd died, with the surviving members being held in quarantine. That said, concerns are mounting.
RHDVT2 is an extremely fatal disease for bunnies, with only about a 30-percent chance of survival. Symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and bloodstained noses or mouths. Luckily, humans cannot contract the disease, but they can transmit it through contact with infected rabbits, water or (in a domestic setting) feed. The disease was first detected out West in 2018, and quickly has become an epidemic in the Western states.
“The introduction of RHDV2 to wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do what we can to prevent contact between infected feral rabbits and wild rabbits,” said Will Dillman, assistant chief of wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
For more information on the disease and how to contain its spread, check out the fact sheet at aphis.usda.gov/.