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Rabbits in South Carolina, Connecticut suddenly drop dead from lethal virus

A highly-contagious and deadly virus is claiming the lives of rabbits in South Carolina.

Authorities detected Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type-2 after a herd of feral bunnies suddenly died at a homestead in Greenville County, the Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center said Thursday.

Surviving members of the herd have been placed in quarantine.

It is the first time the vicious virus has been detected in the state. RHDV2 was first detected in 2018 and has quickly become an epidemic in Western states.

The disease was also detected earlier this month in Connecticut after 13 rabbits died in 24 hours, with the 14th member of the herd succumbing to the virus two days later, the state Department of Environmental Protection said.

Rabbits and hares infected with RHDV2 have a slim 30% chance of survival, the university said. Symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and bloodstained noses or mouths.

Rabbits in a field.
Bunnies infected with the disease have a 30% chance of surviving.
Clemson University

“The introduction of RHDV2 to wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do what we can to prevent contact between infected feral rabbits and wild rabbits,” said Will Dillman, Assistant Chief of Wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Though humans cannot become sick from RHDV2, they can spread the killer virus. It is also transmitted through direct contact with infected rabbits, bedding, water, feed, hay and other materials used in the care and feeding of rabbits.

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