The first Texas case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 was detected this winter in El Paso County.

The first cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 in wild rabbits in Texas this winter were confirmed in El Paso County.

In December, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received test results that confirmed the diagnosis of the disease in two desert rabbits and one black-tailed hare in the county.

It is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbit species, including hares, jackrabbits and cottontails, department officials said in a press release.

This disease is almost always fatal and primarily affects adult rabbits. The viral agent, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus, is a calicivirus with two strains, RHDV1 and RHDV2, both of which have been reported in North America in recent years. The virus infects only species of rabbits or lagomorphs.

It is not known to affect humans, livestock, or pets other than rabbits. However, pets should not consume the carcasses of dead animals.

The department has confirmed RHDV2 in several West Texas counties in recent years.

If you spot sick or dead wild rabbits, contact your local TPWD wildlife biologist. They can be found at https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/technical_guidance/biologist/.

Officials said that often the only clinical sign of illness is sudden death.

In less severe cases, rabbits show lethargy or lethargy, refuse to eat, bleed from the nose and eyes, or develop watery, stuffy eyes. Some may also show neurological signs such as incoordination, agitation, or seizures.

The disease is spread between rabbits through contact with infected rabbits or carcasses, their meat or fur, contaminated food or water, or materials in contact with them. Officials warn that RHDV2 can persist in the environment for long periods of time, making efforts to control the disease extremely difficult if it occurs in wild rabbit populations.

There are vaccinations against the disease.

Pet rabbit owners who have questions about an illness or are seeing sudden death in their rabbits should contact their private veterinarian.

Private veterinarians are asked to contact the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or the Texas Animal Health Commission to report any suspected cases at 1-800-550-8242.

Rabbit owners or breeders should practice biosecurity on their farms and in their homes, officials said. They must also report any unusual mass morbidity (illness) or mortality (death) to the Texas Veterinary Commission.

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