ABSTRACT

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, a notifiable foreign animal disease in the US, was reported for the first time in wild native North American lagomorphs in April 2020 in the southwestern US. Affected species included the desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii), black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), and antelope jackrabbit (Lepus alleni). Desert cottontails (n=7) and black-tailed jackrabbits (n=7) collected in April and May 2020 were necropsied at the US Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center and tested positive for Lagovirus europaeus GI.2, also known as rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (GI.2/RHDV2/b), by real-time PCR at the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Gross and microscopic lesions were similar to those reported in European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and other hare (Lepus) species with GI.2/RHDV2/b infection; they included epistaxis (12/13; 92%); massive hepatocellular dissociation (14/14; 100%) and necrosis or apoptosis (11/11; 100%); pulmonary congestion (12/12; 100%), edema (12/13; 92%), and hemorrhage (11/12; 92%); and acute renal tubular injury (3/8; 38%). As in previous reports, massive hepatocellular dissociation and necrosis or apoptosis was the most diagnostically distinct finding. As North American Sylvilagus and Lepus species appear to be susceptible to fatal GI.2/RHDV2/b infection, additional work is needed to understand the host range, pathogenicity, and potential population effects of GI.2/RHDV2/b in North America.

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