A paper published in the July 1, 2009 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association caught my eye. Here are some excerpts from the abstract.
Case Description–An 8-month-old sexually intact male rabbit was examined because of a 2-day history of [inappetance], [watering] of the left eye, [tooth grinding], [drooling], and [dizziness].
Despite aggressive diagnostics and treatments, the rabbit could not be saved. His condition deteriorated, and after seven days of treatment he was put to sleep. The cause of death was unknown until an autopsy was performed.
Histologic evaluation of brain tissue revealed [multiple irregularities]. The DNA of human herpesvirus-1 was detected in [nerve cells] . . . The rabbit’s owner, who reported having had a severe labial and facial herbesvirus infection 5 days before the onset of clinical signs in the rabbit, was suspected to be the origin of the infection for the rabbit.
(J Am Vet Med Assoc 2009;235:66-69)
In other words, the rabbit’s owner suffered from a severe cold sore (human herpesvirus-1 is the cold sore virus; herpesvirus-2 causes genital herpes). During the outbreak, it appears that the rabbit contracted the virus and subsequently suffered a fatal neurological infection.
Human herpesvirus-1 is ubiquitous. The vast majority of people in the world are infected. A small portion of infected humans suffer from intermittent cold sores (I am one such unlucky individual). If you own a rabbit and suffer from cold sores, be aware that your pet may be at risk during your outbreaks.