Another virus originating in China is killing millions of rabbits. Is it zoonotic?
The Times newspaper this morning reports on a highly contagious virus that originated in China (as did Covid-19) and which has spread across the world killing millions of rabbits. It is now a viral wildfire in the USA. In that part of the world, it started in Mexico.
We don’t know if it is zoonotic i.e. whether is transfers from one animal species to another. It is important to know because not only is rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHDV) type 2 threatening hundreds of millions of wild rabbits, hares and pikas it is also threatening the lives of pet rabbits who are likely to come into contact with pet cats and dogs.
A 2016 study suggested that 90% of the UK’s wild rabbits have been killed by this disease. It causes internal organs to bleed. The rabbits appear well one minute and dead the next. Owners are advised to isolate their rabbits until a vaccine has been created. Anything that comes into contact with an infected rabbit such as an insect, bedding or food bowl can infect another rabbit.
Haemorrhagic disease (RHDV) type 2 virus is highly contagious and very often fatal. The virus particles are also very resilient. They can survive months of dry conditions and they are not deactivated by freezing. A few particles are enough to transmit the disease.
A vaccine used in Europe has been approved in Mexico. RHDV stands for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus.