Highlights: Wild Rabbits of North America Getting Killed By A Deadly Virus

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  • Wild rabbits in the southwestern part of North America are getting infected with a deadly virus. The virus has already affected rabbits in Southern California.
  • The infecting culprit is called rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 or RHDV2 which is a lagovirus in the family Caliciviridae. Rabbits, hares, and pikas are the natural hosts for this virus.
  • The situation is awful that scientists can only watch the spread and worry about species on the danger path.
  • The virus started spreading in Europe and China in the 1980s infecting domestic rabbit species and has reached the Australian soil. In 2010, a new strain of the virus appeared in France killing the wild species.
  • The virus also spread in Spain and Portugal, and more than half of the rabbit population has been killed. This causes a chain reaction in animal population and predators such as Spanish imperial eagle and Iberian lynx that depend on rabbits also decline approximately 50 percent.
  • The virus can survive in dead animals for 3 months and can be spread through the feces of predators and insects.
  • The virus is expected to spread throughout North America.
  • The virus is affecting Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and part of northern Mexico.
  • Some of the affected rabbit species are already declared federally endangered.
  • The mortality rate for this virus averages at about 85 percent.
  • There is no vaccine currently available for the disease.
  • The disease symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, high fever, seizures, jaundice, bleeding from nose, mouth, or rectum, difficulty breathing, and sudden death.
  • Ways to protect your rabbit and steps to prevent the spread of the disease can be found here.



USGS Report



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