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Lethal and contagious disease that only infects rabbits confirmed in Adams County

RHDV-2 has made its way to the southwestern U.S. from Europe and is highly contagious for rabbits.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — A once-foreign disease that is highly contagious and lethal to rabbits has now been found in Adams County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced Friday.

Officers confirmed that dead wild jackrabbits found east of Barr Lake State Park in Adams County had Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2).  

The highly contagious disease does not infect humans and until recently, was not considered a virus that would infect North American cottontails or hares at all, the release says. But, that’s changed after cases were confirmed in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas – prompting Colorado wildlife authorities to be on high alert for infections.

The first confirmed Colorado case of RHDV-2 was found in Costilla County in April. Adams County is now the seventh county in Colorado with confirmed cases of the disease. Other cases have been found in El Paso, Montezuma, Prowers, Pueblo and Weld counties, according to CPW.

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The Adams County cases were confirmed when a woman who was walking on her property on June 4 called wildlife officers and said she noticed numerous dead rabbits.

CPW said officers are now monitoring metro Denver counties for evidence of the disease.

Rabbits who have RHDV-2 might have blood staining on their nose and mouth. CPW said the virus does not affect humans or domestic species other than rabbits, for which it is lethal.

RHDV-2 has had a significant impact on domestic and wild rabbits in Europe, as well as the species that prey on them, according to CPW. It’s worth mentioning the disease is in a different viral family from the coronavirus, and not related to COVID-19.

Wildlife authorities did not say how it reached the western U.S. It has also spread to Australia.

Here are the guidelines regarding wild rabbits from CPW:

- 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.

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