State wildlife officials have informed that a contagious disease outbreak has emerged in rabbits, which has been spreading across many parts of Utah. Experts have said that the outbreak is known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. The officials from the Utah Division of Wildlife have found confirmed cases of the disease across northern and southern Utah. As per the experts, a calicivirus leads to this disease, which majorly hits rabbits including wild and domestic European rabbits. A non-profit rabbit rescue organization called House Rabbit Society has said that the disease outbreak has reduced the rabbit population in the US, said the experts. The US Department of Agriculture has said that the virus does not impact human health.
The disease has emerged in China in 1984 for the first time, although experts think it has originated in Europe. There have been many confirmed cases of the disease in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean. Experts have seen that the virus has not been found to affect rabbits or hares native to North America such as cottontails, snowshoe hares, and jackrabbits before 2020. However, the House Rabbit Society has found that the disease is killing these species now. Experts as well have said that a new virus RHDV2, which has originated in France in 2010, has rapidly been transmitted across Europe and the Mediterranean. The virus has been found to be a swift and sudden killer. In most cases, rabbits do not exhibit any symptoms of the disease and die suddenly. The death rate in rabbits due to this disease is between 40 to 100 percent. They usually die due to internal bleeding.
The officials have said that the virus transmits through proximity with infected rabbits or indirect contact with dead objects, rabbit products, food, and water. The disease can spread through mechanical vectors and predators such as insects, rodents, pet dogs and cats, and birds as well. The virus can live in the atmosphere for months and infect through the urine or feces of infected rabbits or from predators, who have consumed infected rabbits, said Utah officials. Some cases of the disease have been reported in New York, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest. The same outbreak has been seen in some areas of Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and some parts of Mexico as well. Utah Wildlife officials have advised people to be vigilant about rabbits that are bleeding from their mouth and keep disinfecting hands or equipment which might have been used in handling infected animals.