Deadly “Bunny Ebola” Rapidly Spreading Across the SW United States

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released an interactive map, which shows the alarming spread of a rabbit hemorrhagic disease, allegedly caused by a virus that is being referred to as “bunny Ebola.”

“We refer to it as ‘bunny Ebola’,” stated a veterinarian from Killeen, Texas., very clearly.

According to a recent Business Insider article, in the Southwestern United States, thousands of domestic and wild rabbits pass away due to this rare outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV2). So far, it has been spotted in seven states.

What does this mean for humans?

Although nothing about the virus has any technical relation to the human virus responsible for Ebola, it similarly harms a rabbit’s body. The virus is known to cause severe lesions in the tissues and organs of an animal, which ends up causing internal bleeding and then death. Unfortunately, it’s not readily apparent most of the time, if a rabbit has been infected. Typically, it isn’t noticeable until they suddenly pass away, often leaking blood from the nose.

At this time, there is no evidence that humans can get this virus.

Both domestic and wild rabbits have been infected.

Since April of this year, the USDA has documented cases of RHDV2 in California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Even as far south as western Mexico, the disease has been observed. The first case of something like RHDV2 was seen in China about 35 years ago. Since then, three prior North American outbreaks have occurred. Spread across almost every single continent, “variants of the virus” have been detected. This new RHDV2 virus is the only one capable of infecting all kinds of species native to North America, including rabbits, pikas, cottontails, jackrabbits, and snowshoe hares.

“The fact that this is in multiple counties and rabbitries, that’s why this is so concerning. And then to hear it’s burning through the wild rabbit populations, that, of course, furthers our concerns that much more,” said the executive director of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Eric Stewart.

In wildly different locations across America, the virus evidently showed up in the past couple of years. First, in Ohio, pet rabbits were found to have it in 2018. A completely separate outbreak occurred in Washington State. In late February of this year, over 12 rabbits passed away in Manhattan at the Centre for Avian and Exotic Medicine. Within minutes as they described, they succumbed to the virus after suffering from seizures.

Though the past incidents of this virus seem to be unrelated, now we have this southwestern outbreak, which seems to have surfaced in New Mexico and Arizona.

An unbelievable number of fatalities have been reported by a New Mexico veterinarian, Ralph Zimmerman. He said: “We still have no idea where it originated. It’s snowballed and moved like mad. We had one guy with 200 rabbits, and he lost them all between a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. It just went through and killed everything.”

Between March and June, approximately 500 animals in New Mexico suffered from the condition. Complicated, sad, possibly necessary measures were sought to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Officials in New Mexico instituted a policy if one rabbit in a home caught the virus, the remaining rabbits in the family should be put down.

Six hundred animals have been killed to try and stop the spread of the virus. It’s incredibly unclear how this virus could have spread, continent to continent, across several distant regions of the US at different times. However, it is suspected that more cases are out there, and it would make sense because how else would the virus jump from region to region?

“I’m going to be really honest with you. I think there are more cases than have been reported,” Jones the veterinarian continued.

Related: 5 Alarming Reasons Americans Need to Pay Attention to Ebola RIGHT NOW

What are the symptoms and traits of this virus?

Several traits of the virus make this situation dangerous. When it infects a host, the incubation period can be as little as three days. Sometimes, subtle symptoms are recognizable before it is fatal. Some rabbits experience visible appetite loss and loss of energy. However, some show no symptoms before it is instantly fatal.

Blood clotting and organ failure often cause the most problems, with livers and spleens suffering the most. An alarming death rate of about 90 percent of rabbits infected with RHDV2 is currently being reported. 

It is known to spread very quickly through blood, urine, and feces. It is believed that the few surviving bunnies remain a great danger to the rest for up to two months, as they continuously shed the virus.

The virus is known to stick to shoes, hair, and clothing; therefore, if humans walk around an area where infected rabbits were, the outbreak can very quickly be accelerated. Though at this time, humans cannot get this virus, humans can spread it

It is even believed that insects, touching the rabbits, can spread the particles wherever they go. 

This virus is also hard to kill. The pathogens can survive for over three entire months at room temperature. It can even withstand temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C) for an hour at least, and freezing doesn’t kill it either.

“This isn’t just going to go away,” Jones solemnly concluded. “This is a new problem that’s here to stay.”

So to all those who raise rabbits, be careful if you notice just one of them with a loss of appetite or energy. It has not yet been specified what would happen if you consume an infected rabbit, but considering the extremely strong nature of the virus, it’s not a good idea. 

A human version of this virus would be incomprehensible: over 90 percent mortality.

About Cassius

Cassius K. is a writer from North Highlands, California.

Cassius K

Cassius K

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  • Zombie deer disease
    Ebola bunny disease
    Swine flu
    Avian flu
    Off the grid living is becoming more limited by the day and minute.

    Thanks Cassius for alerting us to yet another disease tragedy. You guys are always on the top of the news, and knowing these things help us greatly plan strategies for when we do have to go off the grid. I’m personally ready yesterday to head to the mountains!

    • Becca,
      Go NOW. I am pretty sure the whole Summer will be workable, but you need time to get to know your neighbors, and there may be very little of that as it is.

      After “elections” in November, it may well be too late. Between millions of dead voters, illegal immigrants voting, and mail ballot fraud, nobody will believe the election results no matter who wins. The country will blow up.

      This year, some Coloradans were expelled from their own homes because their main residence was another Colorado county, and Coronapanic.

      Also, you need skills to barter, not just objects. And don’t count on bank money, with “woke” ignoramuses wanting endless handouts with no comprehension of what that will do to the dollar. One pastor had a dream that the mint stopped making coins because they were not worth producing. He thought this a warming from G-d, which is possible, but the subconscious can give us messages through dreams about things that we have refused to see consciously.

  • Daisy,

    Thanks for the heads up. I hadn’t heard a word of this until seeing your article. Any word on how to protect my rabbits from getting this disease? We have tons of cottontails and jack rabbits around our property and so far I haven’t seen any signs of sickness, but we’re in AZ so who knows.

  • This Disease is very aggressive. I lost my entire rabbity last year here in Colorado. I had to start all over. I had to reconfigure my pens so that they have zero contact with wild life and also added a secondary barrier of fencing to help control access to my rabbits. I don’t even allow my grand kids access to my rabbits as they have free range Chickens and Ducks that have contact with other animals I don’t want them inadvertently tracking this virus back into my rabbitry.
    After I lost my rabbits last year I cleaned and bleach sprayed my entire rabbitry twice.

  • As I sit here with everything to start rabbits lol. Couldn’t find any during the lockdown now this. Guess I’d best look at plan B.

    • Matt I just checked Craigslist OK under farm and garden. Plenty of rabbit breeders in your area.

      I’ve had to double fence my rabbits to keep dogs from scaring them literally to death. As the dog in question was a well liked neighbors lick you to death Golden it was to keep the peace. Now I’m adding rabbit proof wire to the bottom of my outer fence to keep wild hares out.

        • Matt as I understand this rabbit disease if they acquire it they either die off pretty fast or survive but remain a vector to other rabbits for a month or so before being a “normal rabbit” again..

          So from my POV if the rabbit breeder doesn’t have it in his/her herd AND you don’t have it from a contaminated bunny in your transport vehicle-rabbitry and maintain Bio-Security with the double fences as well as handwashing you should not have an issue.

          When I was breeding pure bred Angus I had my property well fenced and kept a Bio-security attitude as not to have interesting cattle diseases from “visiting”. No casual “Can I pet the cows” visits from kids (natural vectors of many diseases) and other ranchers had to wash their hands and wear shoe covers when visiting. Kept down the number of casual visitor and I liked that. When the Yakima Valley had a bad bovine disease cycle through back in the 70’s mine didn’t get sick.

          Bleach is a bio-security famers best friend. There are plenty of salt + water + DC electricity plans for a home built chlorine producing machines. I have two in my place and they are easy to use solar panels with. I bet I could trade homemade bleach someday?

  • First documented case in the US was in 2000. Kind of makes you wonder if a new vector is the prime source of the outbreak? At least it’s yet to evolve enough to jump to humans, but it may only be a matter of time for that to occur. RDV (the first of this family of viruses) in European rabbits affected their predators too, back in 1984.

    • There is a vaccine for this – it is not yet approved in the US but is so in Europe. Both of my rabbits are now vaccinated.

  • RIP : Peter Rabbit , Brer Rabbit, & Bugs Bunny. I guess we don’t have to worry about the “killer” rabbits in the 1972 classic Night of the Lepus.

  • Rabbits? And bumblebees are threatened. Lots of other species are in stark decline. It’s a good thing we’ll soon be able to 3-D print our food, because it looks like it won’t be too long before we’ll be unable to grow it.

  • Terrible. Bumblebees, lightning bugs and song birds are all in decline, too. Meanwhile, the chipmunks and woodchucks are taking over my neighborhood!

  • I live on a farm and occasionally one of my dogs may catch a rabbit and eat it. Wonder if it can be transmitted by consuming a sick rabbit?

  • RHD is rampant in Europe, it devistated our wild rabbit colonies and killed many farm rabbits. We vaccinate all our rabbits once a year preventative. Just like bird flue it is spread by wild anymals that come in contact with domestic livestock

  • I’m starting to really question the origin of these so-called viruses. Remember the big break-out of Ebola in and around the Congo a few years ago? Remember how we all were reading reports that some of the people in those areas were closing their doors, blaming US medical personnel for actually spreading the disease, actions which were presented as superstitious and paranoid? What if the medics WERE causing it? Let me explain. I’m a nurse. I could make you bleed through any and every orifice of your body. First, I would give you a shot, or a series of shots, of Heparin. I’d call it an immunization, to make you more compliant. Then I’d (or the doctor would, since I don’t have prescribing authority) give you a bottle of Coumadin to take for 10 days, telling you that it’s an antibiotic or something that will help you. Ta-da!! Bleeding, and perhaps uncontrolled hemorrhaging, depending on the dosage, of course. Now, given that bunnies don’t talk, how can you be sure that I did not slide Coumadin (otherwise known as Warfarin, a common ingredient in rat poison) into some bunny food? I would never do that, though, as I am not possessed by the devil, and I love bunnies. (But, just to be on the safe side, don’t go around petting wild bunnies with nosebleeds.)

    • Ebola outbreaks are nothing new in fact my very first non-CONUS military mission in 1987 was cancelled due to an outbreak. Much of it has to do with culture. You know little things like digging up the dead and dancing around with them. They also have complete lack of sanitation in many of the areas. That’s not to say there is not a possibility of a serial killer UN/WHO Dr getting his/her kicks out there but seeing the size of the spread which was verified with contact tracing efforts I’m doubtful that is the true issue.
      Now I’m supposed to believe that an evil organization of serial killer of bunnies poisoning every known food source has caused a worldwide outbreak over a virus strain and that no scientist performing all those tests couldn’t find the poison?

  • I live in Arizona,and have heard around town of dead wild rabbits being found with no visible signs of outside predation. Just lying on the road,dead. A few weeks back I found a dead intact rabbit near my home. Now I know why. Noticed a lack of rabbits of all kind missing. Not good. Now,coyotes,javalina,and other predators of the rabbits will have to hunt something else,like chickens and pets .

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