More than fourteen rabbits have died from a highly contagious virus that can be spread by humans, conservation authorities have warned.
Veterinarians in Connecticut and South Carolina this week revealed cases of sudden death from rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) in wild herds, with thirteen in Connecticut dying within one day of each other.
The virus is a “serious threat” to rabbits, killing seven out of ten of those it infects and leaving them suffering from bloody noses and mouths and difficulty breathing.
People can’t catch the virus, experts say, but they can spread the disease through their hands or shoes. Owners are asked to wash their hands with warm soapy water before going to rabbit farms and not to allow their pets to come into contact with wild rabbits.
This case was first identified in South Carolina. It reached the US in 2018 and has since spread to 19 states on both the West and East coasts of the country.
Rabbits are being killed by a virus that is fatal to 70 percent of those it infects (film photo)
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has identified a sudden die-off of wild rabbits in Hartford County, near New York City, which are classified as escaped domestic rabbits.
And in South Carolina, the Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center detected RHDV2 in the Grenville area, in the north of the state.
Both said the rest of the herd are now quarantined in kennels to avoid spreading the disease to other groups.
It is not clear how the rabbits became infected, although the virus can be transmitted through litter, water and hay touched by infected rabbits.
It is known in domestic populations in Connecticut, but has not previously been identified in wild herds.
Dr. Amesh Adaja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com that people are “not affected” by the disease.
“It’s just an infection [rabbits]”, he said, adding that “people are notoriously unreceptive.”
Rabbits infected with the virus may suffer from lethargy, conjunctivitis, difficulty breathing and blood spots on the nose or mouth.
Death occurs within one day to two weeks after infection.
There is no cure for the disease, instead authorities are relying on prevention methods to stop the spread of the virus.
It is already known in wild rabbit populations in the western United States.
But it has also been found among domestic rabbits on both sides of the country, suggesting the risk of its spread.
The USDA recommends that those concerned about the disease spreading to their rabbits should always wash their hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit housing area.
It also states that all equipment must be disinfected before being returned to the rabbitry, and any new rabbits added to the flock must be quarantined for 30 days to ensure they are disease-free.
Owners should also avoid interacting with pets or wild rabbits and should not allow visitors to handle rabbits without protective equipment such as gloves and covers.
Source: | This article originally belongs to dailymail.co.uk