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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11061
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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Are rabbit diseases contagoius to humans

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All of our 4 rabbits have died in the last 3 days for no obvious reason. I was just wondering if they did catch a disease, would it be contagious to humans at all, because our little girls were playing with them the day they started to look sick.

You don't have to worry. There are a few parasites that can be transferred from rabbits to humans, but they wouldn't cause the sudden death in rabbits that you've seen. And of course, there are common bacteria that many animals carry that can cause symptoms such as diarrhea in humans.

When rabbits die in the way you've described, it's often due to viral diseases that only rabbits get. Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD) has been reported in scattered areas of the United States for several years. It has the kind of mortality you've seen with your rabbits. Often the only sign is a bit of bleeding from any body openings, sometimes not until after death.

Another disease is myxomatosis. It is common in California and Mexico, but it could appear anywhere. There are different forms of the disease. Lumps on the face are a common symptom of one form. Neither of these diseases are treatable. The illnesses are passed from rabbit to rabbit and can also be spread by mosquitoes, flies, and fleas. They're not contagious to humans.

It's also possible that what your rabbits died from could be something new or rare. If you still have any of the bodies, you may want to notify the United States Department of Agriculture. They monitor the serious contagious diseases of rabbits in order to detect any new diseases and prevent the spread of older ones. Here is their contact information:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Veterinary Services, Emergency Management XXXXX Unit 41
Riverdale, MD 20737–1231
Telephone: (301) 734–8073
Fax: (301) 734–7817

A toxin in the rabbits' food or environment could also have been responsible for their deaths. You could have a vet perform a necropsy on one of the rabbits to determine the cause of death. Regardless of what it may have been, there most likely is no danger to humans. You said the girls were playing with the rabbits on the day they "started to look sick." If you'll tell me in what way they seemed ill, I may be able to help you figure out what was wrong. Just click on REPLY and describe everything you saw that was out of the ordinary. There is no additional fee for such follow-up questions, and I'll be glad to help.

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