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Fatal rabbit virus spreading through Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has reported new cases of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2), a highly contagious and lethal foreign animal disease that affects wild and domestic rabbits.

The new cases were found in Weld County, making it the sixth Colorado county where RHDV2 has been reported.

Domestic rabbits in El Paso and Monetzuma counties have been found with the disease, as have wild and feral rabbits in Alamosa, El Paso, Prowers, and Pueblo counties.

With incidents of RHDV2 increasing in Colorado and western states, CDA and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are asking the public to watch for multiple dead or sick rabbits, which can suggest RHDV2 or a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in people.

Do not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife and do not allow pets to contact or consume wildlife carcasses.

The public has been asked to report suspected wildlife cases by contacting the local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.

Veterinarians and owners are required to report supsected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s office.

Rabbit owners should exercise extreme caution and biosecurity to avoid accidental exposure of domestic rabbits through contaminated feed, bedding, equipment, or clothing that may have come in contact from infected wild rabbits or birds that could transfer the virus from infected wild rabbits.

The CDA advises that domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in wild rabbits.

Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office.

The spread of the disease has also prompted the CDA to issue guidance on rabbit shows and fairs recommending they be postponed or canceled.

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