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According to a press release by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, multiple rabbits have tested positive for a highly contagious and fatal disease called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, type 2 (RHDV-2) . This is a highly unusual occurrence, as this is the first time this illness has been found in Colorado's creatures.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) report that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) was confirmed late last week in three wild cottontail rabbits approximately 10 miles southeast of Alamosa in Costilla County, CO.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Press Release


However, there's no need to worry that we're looking at illness on two fronts, as CPW also stated that RHDV-2 is a threat that is strictly limited to rabbits.

Testing conducted by the USDA Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory was reported as positive for RHDV- 2 on April 17, 2020.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Press Release

However, just because RHDV-2's contagion and lethality is limited to rabbits doesn't mean we're entirely in the clear. The CPW also warns us that we should "not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife, and do not allow pets to contact or consume wildlife carcasses." So, no matter how bored you get, don't start harassing the bunnies flitting around your back yard.

Finally, the press release states that "RHDV-2 is from a different viral family than coronavirus and is not related to COVID-19."

CPW Guidelines for Wild Cottontails, Hares, and Pika:

  • Please report any sick/dead wild rabbits, hares or pika to your local CPW office.
  • Do not handle rabbits or rodents that have been found dead.
  • Do not allow pets or scavengers to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets other than domestic rabbits, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.
  • Do not handle or consume rabbits or other game animals that appear to be sick. Instead, report these cases to the nearest CPW office.
  • Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.

CPW Guidelines for Domestic Rabbits:

  • 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.
  • Domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in wild rabbits.
  • Contact your veterinarian for more information about this disease in domestic rabbits.

Animals of the Denver Zoo


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