A Deadly Virus Is Threatening To Wipe Out Populations Of Rabbits In Various States

As if the world isn’t already dealing with so much right now because of the coronavirus, news reports reveal that another deadly virus is also threatening the underbrush by wiping out rabbit populations across states.

Deadly Rabbit-Killing Virus Spreads Across States

Right now, most of the world is stuck inside their homes while experts, scientists and researchers all work together to try and develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while we’re all practicing social distancing, it seems like nature itself is fighting a virus of its own since a strain of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 has reportedly worked its way through much of the underbrush from western U.S. up to  California, wiping entire rabbit populations along the way.

If this continues to get unchecked, it could harm all of the dozen-plus species of rabbits and hares that we have in the U.S., affecting the ecosystems they belong to as well.

With that in mind, the virus itself is in no way connected to the coronavirus and is only contagious to rabbits, pikas and hares. And while they can spread it among each other, humans can’t get infected with it.

Still, that doesn’t make the virus any less of a concern. Per experts, the virus can cause internal bleeding and swelling. More often than not, however, the rabbits die first before they get discovered to have it.

As for where it came from, it most likely originated around a decade ago from rabbits in Europe, where most of the domestic rabbits in the U.S. came from, according to Matt Gompper, a disease ecologist and head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University.

However, because it’s still new, there’s virtually no data on the related die-offs. As such, ecologists aren’t sure if the illness itself will go ahead and cause outbreaks in the U.S. Either way, it’s still a loss for animal conservation because several of the rabbit species that were infected are either endangered or vulnerable. They’re already dealing with habitat loss, and a virus killing them off can further reduce numbers.

Rabbit A rare disease spread by ticks and rabbits alike is on the rise this year in Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, the CDC reports. Shawn Nystrand, CC BY-SA 2.0