RHDV2 confirmed in NM, AZ; spread to native rabbits

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Well-Known Member
Sep 2, 2018
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Southwest USA
This is just an update for some of you that may not have heard. The deadly rabbit virus RHDV2 has spread to America; and this strain of it is capable of affecting wild rabbit populations. This means it is much more capable of spreading throughout the US than RHDV1. It has been tested and confirmed in wild cottontails and black-tailed jackrabbits, along with multiple populations of domestic rabbits. So far the disease has spread to AZ and NM, and suspected to be in El Paso TX now.

Make sure you are practicing good bio-security; keep wild rabbits away from your rabbits, don't let stranger interact with your rabbits, and try to avoid contact with other domestic rabbits. This is not the time to be buying rabbits if you are in this area; and I suspect it will spread even further than these states.

If you notice die-offs of wild rabbits, find a dead wild rabbit or lose one of your own rabbits please get in contact with the relevant authorities. They are trying to approve a vaccine for emergency use in AZ & NM but so far the only protection we have is isolating your rabbits from any potential sources of disease.

Here is the release for when it was found in Arizona:

NEWS RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2020

Phoenix – The Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) in conjunction with Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has confirmed two separate cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in domestic rabbits and wild rabbits.

RHDV2 is not harmful to humans. RHDV2 is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits and can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or their fur, or materials coming in contact with them.

On March 25, the Arizona State Veterinarian's Office received Information from the State Veterinarian in New Mexico that they had a confirmed case of RHDV2 in a domestic rabbit and were seeing a die off of wild rabbits as well. On April 2, New Mexico reported that since the March 24, 2020 diagnosis of RHDV2 in pet rabbits was confirmed at Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), 5 additional detections on premises in 5 counties have been confirmed, and this investigation is ongoing. On April 2, they confirmed RHDV2 in a wild black-tailed jackrabbit and wild cottontails, representing the first detection of this virus in wild rabbits in the United States.

On April 1st, Arizona Game and Fish received 2 separate reports from wildlife managers in the Douglas area of dying cottontails and jackrabbits. A cottontail and black-tailed jackrabbit were collected and delivered on April 4th to Dr. Justice-Allen, wildlife veterinarian for AZGFD. Lesions were found consistent with RHDV2. Samples from these rabbits were sent to the FADDL at Plum Island. On April 8th, the laboratory confirmed that these animals had died from RHDV2.

On April 6th the AZDA received a report of a sudden die off in a domestic rabbit population in North Eastern Arizona. Samples were collected and sent to FADDL and were reported out as positive on April 9, 2020.

RHDV2 is a viral disease that only affects rabbits (not people, pets, or livestock). Until very recently, it was not known whether or not North American native rabbits would be susceptible to it. They are not susceptible to another strain of the virus, RHDV1. This virus is not related to coronavirus; it is a calicivirus. Infection with this virus is associated with a high mortality rate and it is quite contagious. The virus can survive in the environment for an extended period of time.

The presence of RHDV2 in the U.S. domestic rabbit industry or in the wild rabbit populations would potentially impact the pet rabbit industry; 4- H, FFA, and other hobby groups; exhibitions; laboratories; and the meat, pelt, and hunting sectors.

Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians. If a case is suspected, veterinarians should contact APHIS or email [email protected] to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office or call 623-236-7201 for wildlife issues.

A vaccine for RHDV2 is not currently available in the U.S. Rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing your hands before and after working with rabbits and not sharing equipment with other owners.

Avoid contact with wild or feral rabbits. We recommend burying dead rabbits to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Visit https://agriculture.az.gov/ or azgfd.gov for more information about RHD.
Thank you! I was totally terrified so I googled it. One more reason for Theo to move inside. I am going to call our vet and see what they think about it. Will y'all be getting your rabbits vaccinated for it when a vaccine comes out?
Thank you! I was totally terrified so I googled it. One more reason for Theo to move inside. I am going to call our vet and see what they think about it. Will y'all be getting your rabbits vaccinated for it when a vaccine comes out?
Is there no vaccine in the states?! :eek:
There is no vaccine in the states yet. I am in contact with some people who are working on getting emergency approval for the vaccine's use in AZ & NM, but there's so much bureaucracy to go through... who knows how long it will take. I got on a list of people who want the vaccine when it comes out, but they're estimating about $30/rabbit right now and a vet visit, instead of vaccinating them yourself as I would prefer. That's already hundreds of dollars, and who knows how far I'll have to haul all my rabbits. It might take two doses as well. Not sure about that yet. Either way, my rabbits are my priority - so no matter what it costs, I'm going to make sure they're protected. My veterinarian has been very helpful, so I'm trying to see if I can get it through her instead of their vet, as she will come to my house and vaccinate them for me. I don't really want to be bringing all my rabbits to a vet's office during all of this PLUS COVID-19 issues as well.

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