New Deadly Virus Shows Up In California – This One Is Killing Rabbits
Just when we thought things could not get any worse, a new deadly virus has shown up in the United States. This one is not impacting humans, at least not so far, however. Instead, it is hitting rabbits, and experts say the cuddly animals may soon start dropping like flies because of it.
The New York Daily News reported that officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are speaking out to warn about Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2, which can cause internal bleeding and swelling. The deadly virus, which has already made the jump from domestic to wild rabbits and has the potential to kill millions of them, has already shown up in California.
Making the disease even more terrifying is the fact that it typically isn’t discovered in a rabbit until after the creature is already dead. The CDFW said that after testing a black-tailed jackrabbit carcass submitted from private property near Palm Springs earlier this month, they found that the rabbit did indeed have RHD virus type 2 (RHDV2). This marked the first time that RHDV2 had been spotted in California.
“This disease is highly contagious and often lethal to both wild and domestic rabbits,” the CDFW said. “The carcass that was tested was one of about 10 dead jackrabbits observed on the Palm Springs property.”
RHDV2 is infamous for spreading quickly, and it has already spread to multiple other states. The CDFW said they are bracing themselves for a massive influx of cases, as things will only get worse from here. Officials added that while they are still unsure if other creatures are vulnerable to this illness, they are almost positive that “all rabbit, jackrabbit, hare and pika species are likely susceptible.”
The CDFW went on to explain that animals infected with RHDV2 show no symptoms until they die suddenly, or manifest fever, swelling, internal bleeding and liver necrosis. Experts know little about the virus itself at this time, but they speculate that it could do damage beyond the rabbit species.
“Rabbits, wherever they’re found, tend to have a relatively robust impact on their environment because they’re primary herbirvores,” Matt Gompper, a disease ecologist and head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University, told CNN. “Whether the impact of the virus is such that we’ll see those very dramatic ecological changes as a result is still an unknown.”
“Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators,” added CDFW Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford.
The CDFW has described the virus as “hardy,” saying it can survive on “meat, fur, clothing and equipment for a very long time, making it easily transmissible to other areas.” The agency said that the virus has been logged on both wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Mexico so far, but they expect it to spread to other areas quickly.