The entire population of rabbits across multiple pockets of the Western US is threatened to be wiped out if the spread is not checked right away. Environmentalists are concerned at the looming plight of the different surviving species (more than 12) of rabbits in the US and the ecosystems they belong to due to this deadly virus attack. According to the virologist, it is a strain of rabbit hemorrhagic disease which is a major threat to the entire population of rabbits in the US. Do it is highly contagious but it has not yet been proved to have any e connection with the coronavirus.
Only hares, rabbits, pikas, and diminutive brethren of rabbits can spread the virus among there species. Therefore humans are safe from getting contracted with it. Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 can cause internal bleeding and swelling. But infected rabbits are not found out until they have died of the infection. This has been reported by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“ There are some parallels between rabbit hemorrhagic disease and Covid-19”, as postulated by Matt Gompper, a disease ecologist and Head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology at the New Mexico State University. Both coronavirus and the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus have possibly spilled over from one species to another. The only difference lies in the case of coronavirus is the likelihood of its friend from back to humans and in the rabbit disease from domestic to wild rabbits. In both cases, the infection spread rapidly beyond any preventive measure to be taken by health officials to contain the spread.
How did Disease Transport to the US?
Gompper said, “The disease likely originated about a decade ago in European rabbits that comprise most of the domestic rabbits sold in the US. In early March a new strain of the virus was identified among the wild rabbits of Southern New Mexico.” After a few days, dead rabbits were spotted nearby El Paso, Texas. More such rabbits were spotted in Arizona, Colorado, and California in May. However, ecologists have a difference in opinion on how the virus type to write in the US. Gompper opines that the disease was spread through rabbit meat or domestic rabbit trade. It might have been spreading in Northern Mexico which shares a border with Texas and New Mexico.
Can the disease hamper ecosystems?
“The disease being new, there is virtually no data on the related die-offs”, said Gompper. So even though it is still Warring ecologists are not sure if the illness will cause localized outbreaks in some areas or widespread deaths of rabbits across the US. Either way, it is a threat to the ecosystems of the US. Several rabbit species including California’s Riparian Brush Rabbit are into the endangered species and they are trying to make up for their habitat loss. Under the circumstance, a potentially fatal outbreak of this virus could hobble their recovery.
Environmentalists are concerned that rabbits are not the only species who would suffer if there is a widespread attack of the virus on them. “If rabbit populations are wiped out then the predators that live on them would also lose a vital source of sustenance. Also, the plants these rabbits graze on may overgrow which is yet again threatened to the balance in the ecosystem”, Gompper said.
He added, “Rabbits tend to have a mighty impact on the environment they live in as they are the primary herbivores. Whether the impact of the virus will lead to dramatic ecological changes is still an unknown fact.”