Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 affecting cottontails, jackrabbits
A virus killing rabbits in the Southwest and West could spread among vulnerable species across North America.
Rabbits and hares across the continent may be susceptible to rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2, which caused sporadic outbreaks in domestic rabbits in North America before it was first discovered in wildlife this March in New Mexico. Eastern cottontail rabbits, abundant throughout much of North America, are among the species susceptible to rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2. (Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.) It since has spread to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Utah and is killing domestic rabbit herds and at least four wild lagomorph species. Mexico is dealing with concurrent outbreaks in its northern states.
Dr. Julianna Lenoch, a veterinary epidemiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Aug. 14 the U.S., fortunately, saw little recent spread of the virus.
“We haven’t had a new state or expansion reported in the last 60 days,” she said. “But most of the rabbit groups and wildlife partners are on high alert for any further disease incursion.”
The deaths reported so far among domestic and wild rabbits suggest the virus has a mortality rate somewhere between 50% and 90%, Dr. Lenoch said.
As of mid-August, the virus had spread in the wild among desert and mountain cottontails and black-tailed and antelope jackrabbits, she added. Researchers with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory have shown that eastern cottontails also are susceptible to the virus.The U.S. habitat for eastern cottontails stretches from the Great Plains to the East Coast, overlapping with […]