Vol. 237 August 1, 2020 A New Pandemic?

August 1, 2020

Yet there is one area where the world isn’t making much progress:
pandemic preparedness. This failure should concern us all, because history has taught us there will be another deadly global pandemic. We can’t predict when, but given the continual emergence of new pathogens, the increasing risk of a bioterror attack, and the ever-increasing connectedness of our world, there is a significant probability that a large and lethal modern-day pandemic will occur in our lifetime.
– Bill Gates, Mass Medical Society Shattuck Lecture, NEJM, May 5, 2018


“A highly contagious, often lethal virus originating in China arrives in the U.S. from Europe.” (1) Sound familiar? Maybe you don’t want to read about it. What, something else to worry about?! Oh, no! Well it is NOT a corona virus and it kills only rabbits, but its characteristics are chillingly similar to SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus.

  • It is extremely contagious (to rabbits only). The virus persists for months on rabbit fur, flies feet, dry cloth and withstands freezing and thawing.
  • Infected rabbits are often asymptomatic
  • Symptoms in rabbits usually consist of simply a runny nose and lethargy.
  • But It causes 100% mortality with hepatitis that depletes the rabbit’s clotting factors and they die with multiple organ failure due to hemorrhage. (RHD – Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease or “Bunny Ebola”)
  • There is no treatment for it.
  • The virus was originally identified in China in 1984 as RHDV1; took 5 years to develop a vaccine against it.
  • In 2010 rabbits in France began dying from a mutated virus identified as RHDV2.
  • The disease spread devastatingly rapidly because the RHDV2 infected rabbits lived longer and often did not show any symptoms; took 6 years to develop the RHDV2 vaccine in France
  • In 2019 a pet rabbit died from RHDV2 on an island near Seattle.
  • Three weeks later 145 rabbits in a facility across the Puget Sound died of RHDV2; rabbits and rabbit products were banned from the ferries serving Puget Sound.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture declined to approve the importation of vaccine from France..
  • State-by-state vaccine importation was eventually allowed by the USDA; 50 states generated 50 different protocols for its use.
  • By April 2020 a veterinarian in the state of Washington began administering 400 doses of the vaccine by curbside service only, wearing PPE, and with strict hand washing techniques because of COVID-19.
  • RHD is now endemic throughout the Western and Southwestern U.S. in both wild and pet rabbits.
  • Rabbit owners, furious at the delay of vaccine distribution and the few days delay in reporting a 2020 infection outbreak in a NYC pet facility, lit up social networks with fears of veterinarians who will report an infected rabbit, resistance from rabbit lovers against using the vaccine because it was prepared from rabbits killed by the virus, and a conspiracy theory that Australia started it all as a global plot to free the world of rabbits.

Zoonoses, diseases spread from animals to humans, are very common. Go here for a list of dozens.   Malaria, Lyme, and West Nile are examples of zoonoses that require a vector like a tick or a mosquito to infect humans. Ebola, Swine flu, and COVID-19 are zoonoses that don’t require a vector to leap from animal to human. They are spread by direct contact. Rabbit fever does NOT infect humans, but if it mutates it might, and it would probably transmit to humans through direct contact; no vector required.

Pandemics will happen again. Dr. Fauci said so ten years ago and that another pandemic was one of his greatest worries. Bill Gates said it, again, in 2018, has poured some of his foundation money into developing a universal flu vaccine, and is now doing the same for corona virus vaccine research.

Most corona viruses merely cause a common cold. Two mutations of zoonoses corona viruses, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV 2, have proved to be lethal. RHDV1 infects only pet rabbits. Its mutation RHDV2 infects both pet AND wild rabbits. What will the next RHDV mutation do?

Just think about it,. . . “Rabbits are the only animals we keep as pets, and just as regularly, eat or wear.” (1)

1. Rabbit Fever, Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, July 6 & 13, 2020

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