Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gaming Commission requires members of the public to report any incidents of rabbit/rabbit deaths — defined as the finding of two or more dead rabbits/rabbits at the same location with an unknown cause of death.
The public can report any deaths by calling 1-833-PGC-WILD or using the Wildlife Health Survey online reporting tool at https://www.pgcapps.pa.gov/WHS.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, two captive rabbits from a facility located in Fayette County tested positive for rabbit hemorrhagic virus 2 (RHDV2), one of the viruses that cause rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).
Domestic rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians, who should in turn immediately report suspected cases of RHD to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Office of Animal Health at 717-772-2852, option 1. Veterinarians can Call this line at any time.
Outbreaks of RHDV2 in domestic and wild rabbits have previously been reported throughout the United States. As of August 2022, it is considered endemic to wild lagomorph (hare/rabbit) populations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. It has been detected in domestic rabbit populations in those states, as well as Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
And now Pennsylvania. The Fayette County case makes its first appearance here.
The Game Commission has an RHD management plan in place. It outlines various strategies the agency may consider to protect Pennsylvania’s wild rabbits and hares. This plan can be found at https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/WildlifeHealth/Pages/Rabbit-Hemorrhagic-Disease.aspx.
“RHD poses a significant threat to Commonwealth cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares, and as such, the Game Committee is taking this latest finding very seriously,” said Dr. Andrew de Salvo, Game Committee veterinarian. “We are working hard to learn more about the occurrence of this RHD and to determine what action, if any, to take and when.”
RHDV2 is a highly contagious and contagious virus that infects rabbits and closely related species. It was first identified in domestic rabbits in France in 2010, and has since caused mass mortality in hares and rabbit populations in many countries. It appeared in the United States in early 2020 and is now already considered endemic to rabbit populations in some western states.
The disease spreads from animal to animal in a number of ways, including direct animal-to-animal contact, or ingestion of contaminated food or water; inhalation; contact with contaminated equipment, tools and attachments; Viral movement by flies, birds, biting insects, predators, litter, and humans; and contact with urine, feces, and respiratory secretions of infected individuals. The virus can live on clothing, shoes, plant materials, or other items that humans or other animals could accidentally transfer from an endemic area.
Wild rabbits and rabbits that do not die immediately after infection may present with poor appetite, lethargy, and blood oozing from their mouths or noses.
There is no specific treatment for RHD and it is often fatal, with the local population potentially having a mortality rate of 75 to 100%. The virus is very resilient and may remain on the ground for several months as well.
Rheumatic heart disease does not pose any risks to human health. However, dead or sick rabbits and rabbits can also be a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in humans. Therefore, it is important that the public not handle or consume wildlife that appears sick or has died of unknown cause. It is also important to prevent pets from coming into contact with or consuming wild animal carcasses.
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