While the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, veterinarians and wildlife agencies in seven south-western states are dealing with an epidemic in domestic and wild rabbits.
According to Business Insider, thousands of wild and domestic rabbits are dying from rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) across seven states.
“We refer to it as ‘bunny Ebola,'” Amanda Jones, a veterinarian from Killeen, Texas, told The Cut. While the rabbit virus is “not related in any way, shape, or form” to ebola — a virus that causes severe bleeding, organ failure, and death in humans and primates — Jones said RHDV2 ravages rabbit bodies in a similar manner.
Since April, the US Department of Agriculture has confirmed RHDV2 cases in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas. Parts of western Mexico have also been hit with the virus.
This is the fourth outbreak of this kind in North America, but what makes this one different is that this is the first time this particular virus has spread to wild animal populations, Cottontails, snowshoe hares, and jackrabbits have all gotten sick and died.
“The fact that this is in multiple counties and rabbitries, that’s why this is so concerning,” Eric Stewart, the executive director of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, told VIN News. “And then to hear it’s burning through the wild rabbit populations, that, of course, furthers our concerns that much more.”
The virus can not infect humans but the fact that it could have devastating effects on wild rabbit populations should be very concerning. Rabbits are an essential part of the food chain, everything eats rabbits. So it seems to reason that other animal populations will suffer from a steep rabbit decline even if they can not become infected.