KEY POINTS

  • A disease dubbed as "bunny ebola" is spreading in certain parts of the U.S.
  • RHDV2 kills infected animals in the same manner as the Ebola virus
  • RHDV2 mainly affects rabbits and cannot infect humans

Experts warned that a virus with a 90% death rate is currently spreading across southwestern areas in the U.S. Reports indicated that the outbreak has already killed thousands of wild and domestic rabbits in the country.

The highly contagious pathogen is caused by the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV2). As its name suggests, the virus mainly infects wild and domestic rabbits. Due to its nature, experts refer to it as the “bunny ebola.”

Although RHDV2 is not related to the Ebola virus, the disease affects the bodies of rabbits in a similar way. According to veterinarians, RHDV2 triggers lesions to form in the organs and tissues of rabbits, which leads to internal bleeding, organ failure and death. After an animal has died due to RHDV2, a bloody discharge will leak from its nose, Business Insider reported.

It takes about three days for the virus to incubate once a rabbit has been infected. While some animals experience organ failures, others do not display symptoms before dying. Local reports indicated that the current outbreak of RHDV2 in the U.S. has a death rate of 90%.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the disease has already reached various areas in the U.S. such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. Although the virus can’t infect humans and other types of animals, it can stick to hair, shoes, clothing and fur, allowing it to be easily transmitted to other rabbits.

Surfaces contaminated by the virus could also cause rabbits to get sick since the RHDV2 can survive for over three months at room temperature.

Currently, a licensed vaccine against RHDV2 is not available in the U.S. Although veterinarians have already requested permission from the USDA to import vaccines from other countries, the entire process could take a long time.

Experts warned that due to the lack of a vaccine, the number of RHDV2 in the country will continue to increase.

“I’m going to be really honest with you,” Amanda Jones, a veterinarian from Killeen, Texas, told The Cut. “I think there are more cases than have been reported. This isn’t just going to go away. This is a new problem that’s here to stay.”

Rabbit It's good luck to say "rabbit, rabbit" on the first of the month, but why? Photo: Getty Images