BILLINGS — This summer, rabbit owners have been urged to be aware of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) - a fatal disease spread from wild rabbits to domestic rabbits.
“The disease is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 and it moved in from Mexico about two years ago,” said Dr. Hallie Hasel, Wyoming assistant state veterinarian-field operations. “It's been coming across the United States and started out in southern states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and is moving slowly, progressively up through the Midwest and West.”
She says there is a vaccine for healthy rabbits but unfortunately there isn’t a treatment for rabbits that have contracted the virus.
“Basically, it's endemic and stable in our wild population,” said Hasel. “Meaning that it's here and probably not going away. And as it spreads, it causes acute deaths. So, very fast death in both wild and domestic rabbits. It can definitely affect our 4-H and FFA kids and their rabbit projects. Any rabbit colonies out there are at risk for this disease, but it doesn't affect other species, only rabbits. As for other animals that happen to prey on the rabbits, it will not affect them, just the rabbits.”
She says there are some things rabbit owners and others can do to help stop the spread of the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2.
“The number one thing we can do to prevent RHDV2 as we call it, is biosecurity,” said Hasel. “Don’t contaminate. Don't go outside and then come back inside where you've been in a rabbit area outside. Don't go inside to your rabbits. Make sure you have clean shoes on and clean clothing. Don't go visit other rabbit areas. If you see dead wild rabbits, contact your Game and Fish Department or whoever is in charge of wild rabbits in that area. Don't pick them up. And don't touch them.”
The disease has also been reported in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, California, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming, Florida and New York.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 is reportable, meaning anyone who suspects either domestic or wild rabbits may be infected is obligated to report that information to either the Montana Department of Livestock or to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.