Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Found in Colorado
In a joint release issued by Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, it was announced that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease was confirmed in southern Colorado.
After receiving a report of dead wild rabbits in north of Alamosa in Castillo County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife responded, and retrieved and tested those carcasses, submitting the results to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife health laboratory for necropsy. A positive result was returned on April 17 by the USDA Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
Although this location is the only report of unusual findings of deceased wild rabbits, Colorado Parks and wildlife ask that the public be aware and report any sick or dead wild rabbits, hares, or pikas to your local CPW office.
What is RHDV-2?
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2, also known as RHDV-2, is a highly contagious and fatal disease that occurs in rabbits and hares. The virus does not affect humans or any domestic animal species other than rabbits, but it is very prolific and deadly for the rabbits.
According to a fact sheet available by the USDA, (Link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/fs-rhdv2.pdf ) the RHDV to virus is very resistant to extreme temperatures. The virus also is easily spread through direct contact or exposure to the excretion or blood of an infected rabbit. The virus is resilient in that it can survive and spread through carcasses food water and any other contaminated materials. Also, a person can serve as a carrier of the disease on clothing and shoes.
4H students and other residents who own rabbits should familiarize themselves in order to take precautions, increase vigilance, and awareness of this virus. Rabbit owners who have questions should contact their veterinarian, but when the viruses detected, they should immediately contact their USDA local office since the RHDV2 virus is a reportable disease.
For anyone who is out in the wild and notices any sick or dead wild rabbits, hairs, or pika, they should report these immediately to their local CPW office. Do not pick them up or handle them in any way, simply leave them as they are and report the location. Most mobile phones have the ability to get a GPS location which is something you can share with the CPW office when you call. Also, if you come across any of these animals that appear to be sick, do you not handle them or shoot to eat. Report those to the CPW office.
“The virus has had significant impacts on domestic rabbits as well as wild rabbits and species that pray upon them in Europe. However, multiple dead or sick rabbits can also be a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in people. Do not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife, and do not allow pets to contact or consume wildlife carcasses. RHDV-2 is from a different viral family then coronavirus and it’s not related to Covid – 19."