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GILLESPIE COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The first case of a deadly disease that affects wild and domestic rabbits has been detected in the Hill Country.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) was first detected in Texas in April 2020, with cases in Lubbock and Hudspeth counties. The new case, in a wild rabbit, is in Gillespie County, making it the first case in the Hill Country.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says it continues to receive and respond to reports of dead wild rabbits and hares across the state. If you find a sick or dead wild rabbit, you’re encouraged to contact a local TPWD wildlife biologist.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is a highly-contagious viral disease. TPWD says it can affect both domestic and wild rabbits, including hares, jackrabbits and cottontails. It is nearly always fatal.
Sudden death is often the only clinical sign of the disease. In less acute cases, symptoms can include dullness or apathy, not eating, bleeding from the nose and eyes or watery, congested eyes. Some rabbits may also show neurological symptoms, like incoordination, excitement or seizure-like episodes.
While the disease is not known to affect humans, livestock or other pets, TPWD says pets should not be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses.
The disease spreads easily between rabbits through direct contact with infected animals or carcasses. Contaminated meat, fur, food, water, insects, materials and objects can also spread the disease. RHDV2 can persist in the environment for a “very long time,” according to TPWD. Because of this, efforts to control the disease are extremely challenging once it is detected in wild rabbit populations.
Domestic rabbit owners who observe sudden death in their rabbits should contact their private veterinarian. Vets are asked to contact the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service or the Texas Animal Health Commission to report suspected cases, at 800-550-8242.