PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Environmental experts are concerned about Oregon’s wild rabbit population after multiple cases of a virus that is deadly to the animals were confirmed in different parts of the state.
The latest case of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, was in La Pine. Last month, the disease was detected nearly 200 miles away in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland, in eight dead domestic and feral rabbits.
Following last months discovery, Dr. Ryan Scholz, Oregon’s state veterinarian, said the virus has taken hold in the feral rabbit population.
The disease, also referred to as RHD, causes sudden death and is highly contagious among the animals, spreading through contact with infected rabbits, meat, fur or other materials. Birds, rodents, flies, predators and scavengers can also spread this virus, as well as people by carrying it on their clothing, hands and shoes.
The disease poses no health risk to humans, experts say.
Officials from the Department of Agriculture warned that people who own domestic rabbits should keep them inside, don’t allow the animals to roam the yard, avoid transporting the animals and quarantine new rabbits for 30 days.
In addition, officials say hunters should avoid areas where outbreaks of the disease have been reported. After handling wild rabbits, people should wash their hands, change clothes and report sick or dead rabbits to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
To prevent the virus from spreading further into the domestic rabbit population, the state is collecting and testing feral rabbits where disease has been detected.