Highly contagious virus killing rabbits can be transmitted by humans

Highly contagious virus has killed over a dozen rabbits in Connecticut and South Carolina this week: Virus can be transmitted by humans but won’t infect them, experts say

  • Veterinarians in South Carolina revealed a sudden die off in rabbits Thursday
  • And on Tuesday those in Connecticut said fourteen had died from a virus
  • The infections were diagnosed as rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type-2 
  • They warned although humans cannot catch the virus, it can be spread by them
  • Rabbit owners in the state should wash their hands with warm soapy water before going into rabbitries to avoid spreading the disease to their pets

More than fourteen rabbits have died from a highly contagious virus that can be spread by humans, environmental authorities have warned.

Veterinarians in Connecticut and South Carolina disclosed the sudden deaths from rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type-2 (RHDV2) in feral herds this week, with thirteen in Connecticut dying within a day of each other.

The virus is a ‘serious threat’ to rabbits, killing seven-in-ten of those it infects, and leaving them suffering bloody noses and mouths and struggling to breathe.

Humans cannot catch the virus, experts say, but they can transmit the disease via hands or shoes. Owners are being told to wash their hands with warm soapy water before going to rabbitries and not let their pets interact with wild rabbits.

The case marks the first time the virus has been detected in South Carolina. It reached the U.S. in 2018 and has since spread to 19 states across both the western and eastern coasts of the country.

Rabbits are being killed by a virus that is fatal to 70 percent of those it infects (fil photo)

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture revealed the sudden die-off in Hartford County, near New York, in feral rabbits — classified as domesticated rabbits that have escaped.

And in South Carolina the Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center revealed the RHDV2 diagnosis in the Grenville area, in the north of the state.

Both said the remaining members of the herd have now been quarantined in hutches to avoid the disease spreading to other groups.

It is not clear how the rabbits became infected, although the virus can be transmitted through bedding, water and hay that was touched by infected rabbits.

It is known in domestic populations in Connecticut, but has not previously been detected in wild herds.  

Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases expert at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com people are ‘not impacted’ by the disease.

‘It is only an infection of [rabbits],’ he said, adding that ‘humans are not known to be susceptible’.

Rabbits infected with the virus may suffer lethargy, conjunctivitis, difficulty breathing and have bloodstained noses or mouths.

Death occurs within one day to two weeks of becoming infected.

There is no cure for the disease, with authorities instead relying on prevention methods to stop the virus spreading.

It is already known in wild rabbit populations across the western United States.

But it has also been detected among domestic rabbits on both sides of the country, suggesting a risk that it may now be spreading.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that those concerned about the disease spreading to their rabbits should always wash their hands with warm soapy water before entering their rabbit area.

It also says all equipment should be sanitized before being returned to the rabbitry, and any new rabbits added to the herd should be quarantined for 30 days to ensure they do not have the disease.

Owners should also avoid allowing pet or wild rabbits to interact, and should not allow visitors to handle their rabbits without wearing protective gear such as gloves and shoe covers. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk