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A virus is killing wild rabbits in Southern Arizona

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TUCSON - There is another pandemic going on right now in the southwest region of the United States but it's not affecting people, it is affecting rabbits.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease has popped up in Texas, New Mexico and is now beginning to spread into Southern Arizona.

Anne Justice-Allen is a wildlife veterinarian with Arizona Game & Fish Department and has been studying the virus.

"One of the common external signs is that they will have a bloody nose," said Justice-Allen.

This disease is projected to have mortality rate between 70 and 100 percent in rabbit populations.

A big question about this new rabbit pandemic is will it affect our pets?

"The only species that are susceptible are in the rabbit family but that does include domestic rabbits," said Justice-Allen.

For rabbit owners, you are going to want to let your pet bunnies out in the yard a little less often.

Additionally, rabbit hunters also need to take precautions.

"It's really important for rabbit hunters to dress their carcasses in the field, remove all the intestinal tracts," Justice-Allen continued, "and if they're going to use the parts for bait, acquire the rabbits locally."

As for Arizona Game & Fish, their main focus is containing the virus.

"Right now, we are primarily concerned with dead rabbits that turn up west of highway 191 and north of I-10," said Mark Hart of Arizona Game & Fish. "If we can go retrieve those rabbits, we will."

Since this new rabbit pandemic just pulled into Arizona, it's very hard to put a timetable on how long it is going to last.

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Daniel McFarland

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