Reminds rabbit owners to practice proper health and sanitary measures to prevent disease

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets has confirmed a case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in a domestic rabbit in Montgomery County. RHDV2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease of domestic and wild rabbits that was first found in the United States in 2018.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of the virus in this case. RHDV2 does not affect humans or other animals.

While this case is an isolated incident and limited to one household, rabbit owners are being encouraged to ensure proper health and sanitary measures to prevent the disease by taking simple steps to reduce the chance of RHDV2 affecting rabbits.

The following best practices are recommended:

  • Do not allow pet or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or gain entry to the facility or home.
  • Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering and gloves).
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or untrusted sources. Do not add rabbits to your rabbitry from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations.
  • If you bring outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separated from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry.
  • Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review biosecurity practices.

More information on biosecurity and measures to prevent the spread of this disease can be found here.

Owners can also speak with their veterinarians about the potential use of a new vaccine for RHDV2, which was recently granted emergency use authorization by the USDA. Interested rabbit owners should contact their veterinarian for information on how to get their animals vaccinated. 

Signs of RHDV2 in rabbits may include fever, lethargy, hemorrhage, seizures and sudden death. Rabbits typically show signs one to three days after being infected. The virus can survive in the environment for weeks or longer, and it can be spread through feed, bedding, equipment and other contaminated materials such as shoes and clothing.

This is the second occurrence of RHDV2 in New York. The first cluster of cases was in New York City in March 2020. The virus was quickly identified, isolated and eradicated.

RHDV2 is a reportable disease in New York. Sick or dead domestic rabbits should be reported to the State Veterinarian’s office at 518.457.3502 or to the USDA at 866.536.7593. Multiple wild rabbits found dead or wild rabbits with blood-stained noses should be reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Wildlife Health Unit at 518.478.2203. Wild rabbits found dead on the road do not need to be reported.

By martha

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