Highly contagious rabbit disease that causes sudden death detected in Texas for first time this winter

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus 2 is highly contagious for both domestic and wild rabbits

Cottontail rabbit. (Image by RusticPix .com from Pixabay)

SAN ANTONIO – The Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus 2 has been detected in three animals in Texas for the first time this winter.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said two desert cottontail rabbits and one black-tailed jackrabbit in El Paso County tested positive for the disease.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus 2, or RHDV2, is highly contagious for both domestic and wild rabbits.

It causes sudden death, and in less severe cases, rabbits can show dullness, loss of appetite, watery or congested eyes, and bleeding from the nose and eyes.

RHD, which has two strains, has been reported in North America in recent years and has been detected in several West Texas counties during that time.

RHD is not known to affect humans, pets or livestock, but pets should not eat the carcasses of infected animals.

“This highly contagious disease spreads between rabbits through contact with infected rabbits or carcasses, their meat or their fur, contaminated food or water, or materials encountering them,” TPWD said in a news release. “RHDV2 can persist in the environment for a very long time. These factors make disease control efforts extremely challenging once it occurs in wild rabbit populations.”

If you suspect a sick or dead rabbit has contracted the disease, contact a local TPWD biologist or a veterinarian. Unusual mass sickness or mortality events among rabbits should be reported to the Texas Animal Health Commission.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.