Outbreak Of Contagious RHDV2 Virus Detected In Chicago

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In recent news, we heard about a deadly disease that rapidly killed rabbits in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. This widespread disease started a month back for the first time according to sources. Commonly known as RHDV2 (Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2), this virus holds the capability to kill a rabbit instantly, explained Marcia Coburn, the president of Red Door Animal Shelter. Not only wild rabbits, but domestic pet rabbits were affected too, leading to their deaths.

Rabbits who catch RHDV2 often were found to die quickly without any prominent symptoms. Some subtle signs are seen in some infected rabbits like they were lethargic, struggled to breathe or refused to eat. And, a few cases claimed that they sometimes bled from their eyes or mouth, according to the survey ran by Illinois Department Of Agriculture. Those rabbits who catch it but survive the disease can spread the virus to other rabbits in the vicinity. They may not show any signs of infection but the infected rabbits are capable of spreading the disease up to 42 days, according to Coburn.

To prevent your pet rabbit from getting infected by the RHDV2 outburst, make them take the two shots of RHDV2 vaccination and the yearly booster shot, suggested Coburn. After the first shot, wait for three weeks before they are given the 2nd shot. The vaccine takes around three weeks to set in and after which your rabbit will receive the needed protection from catching this virus. Generally, vaccines are important to keep our pet bunnies from getting affected by n-number of viruses exposed in our surroundings.

One fortunate fact is that this virus cannot be spread to humans or other pet animals. Only rabbits can catch this disease. Originally, reported by the Chicago, the virus was identified in Cuddle Bunny, 2901 N. Clark St., in Lakeview, after two unvaccinated rabbits died suddenly. A representative from Cuddle Bunny stated, “We are retreating from the public eye for a while, mourning our losses of our furry family members and trying to determine if and when we will reopen our doors.”

To curb the widespread, if anyone notices infected wild rabbits in their vicinity who seems to have been infected or are dead without any visible reason, contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 217-782-4944 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services at 217-547-6030.

“Even if people don’t have rabbits of their own, they should definitely be looking out for suspicious deaths of wild rabbits,” Coburn added.

Rabbits can be exposed to the virus particles in the air while they are outside if they are not vaccinated. Limiting them to indoors is not ideal which is why vaccination is the best approach a pet parent should go for. Moreover, it is not guaranteed that the virus will not enter your home through footwear or other carriers. Disinfecting is a good temporary solution but vaccination is important, according to the U.S Department Of Agriculture. Additionally, use renowned rescue disinfectant spray or a mixture of water and bleach to disinfect the home surfaces.

With this outbreak, the Red Door Animal Shelter introduced quarantine for at least five weeks for any newly rescued rabbits while they get their RHDV2 vaccine. Moreover, Red Door’s boarding program, Hare BnB, has decided to only accepts rabbits who are fully vaccinated against RHDV2.

“We’ve put a lot of safety measures in place and it has definitely slowed us down, but we’re doing our best to protect the rabbits,” Coburn said.

RHDV2 was first identified in the United States in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since then, this virus has spread across the U.S. and affected at least 28 states, according to Red Door Animal Shelter’s news release.

In 2019, RHDV2 killed hundreds of wild and domestic rabbits in Island and Clallam counties. Before then, the disease was designated as a foreign animal disease (FAD). Because of that outbreak, the virus is now considered stable-endemic, which means it already exists in the environment, according to the press release by WSDA.

Because the disease now exists generally in the environment, there won’t be any additional restrictions or rules set into place with this detection.

What’s heartbreaking is that researchers have found the disease can greatly impact rabbit populations if deaths toll keeps increasing so quickly.

“Losing rabbits can be a huge blow to the ecosystem,” Coburn said. “Rabbits are prey animals, which means lots of other animals rely on them for food. Rabbits might be pesky little guys who are always eating people’s gardens, but they serve an important role in nature.”

Some tips for domestic rabbit owners from the Department of Agriculture include:

  • Prevent your pet rabbit’s contacting with wild rabbits
  • Keep your pet rabbits up off the ground when outdoors
  • Rabbit owners to wash hands in between handling rabbits
  • Rabbits taken to shows should be quarantined afterward and exhibitors should be careful not to share equipment
  • Rabbit owners are advised to keep shoes from the outside away from the rabbits

Based on news circulating the internet and expert recommendations, Best Pet Advice suggests the pet parents to consider getting their rabbits vaccinated against RHDV2.


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