Officials urge caution after virus that quickly kills rabbits detected in Chicago area

Bunnies in Carrier
Animal Care and Control

Illinois officials are urging rabbit owners take caution after a dangerous virus that quickly kills rabbits has been detected in domestic rabbits in Cook County.

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, or RHDV2, was detected in a domestic rabbit in Illinois for the first time last month.

Officials said prior to last month's detection, the virus had not been detected in any domestic or wild rabbits in the state.

The virus has previously been detected in many other areas across the U.S., with noted prevalence in the western half of the country.

There is currently no live animal test to confirm the disease's presence, though symptoms include lethargy, trouble breathing and anorexia, according to the Agriculture Department.

Any suspected cases of RHDV2 in a domestic or wild rabbit should reported to agriculture officials at either 217-782-4944 (Illinois) or 217-547-6030 (U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services).

To assist in prevention, a vaccine has been approved for emergency use for the prevention of RHDV2, with information on how the vaccine can be ordered available here.

In addition to vaccination, rabbit owners are also asked to practice biosecurity measures to help prevent spread of the disease.

This includes preventing contact with wild rabbits, not allowing rabbits on the ground while outdoors, washing hands before and after handling rabbits and limiting interactions with other rabbits.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the virus was the cause of the sudden death of two bunnies at Cuddle Bunny in Lakeview, which offers rabbit boarding services.

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