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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease confirmed in Southern Colorado

Christian Fernsby |
A highly contagious and fatal disease of rabbits and hares has been detected for the first time in Colorado.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) report that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) was confirmed late last week in three wild cottontail rabbits approximately 10 miles southeast of Alamosa in Costilla County, CO.

RHDV-2 does NOT affect humans or domestic species other than rabbits, but is highly contagious and lethal among rabbits.

RHDV-2 is considered a foreign animal disease and is of high concern at the state and federal levels.

Until recently, RHDV-2 was not considered a virus that would infect North American cottontails or hares; however, cases have now been reported in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.

After these reports in other Western states, CPW and CDA increased efforts to raise awareness of the potential for this disease in Colorado.

CPW collected carcasses for testing after a report of dead wild rabbits in Costilla County on April 13th and submitted them to the CPW wildlife health laboratory for necropsy.

Testing conducted by the USDA Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory was reported as positive for RHDV- 2 on April 17, 2020.

Recent unusual mortalities in Colorado wild rabbits have only been reported in Costilla County to date, but CPW is requesting public assistance in identifying additional mortality events.

This virus has had significant impacts on domestic rabbits as well as wild rabbits and species that prey 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 than coronavirus and is not related to coronavirus.

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