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HEADS UP ON RABBIT HEMORRHAGIC DISEASE

By Nancy Frank, DVM, MPH, DACVPM  |  Staff Veterinarian  |  07.10.20

The latest major disease outbreak affecting wild and domestic animals in the US is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) involving the strain RHDV2. RHD is a serious disease of rabbits that is classified as a Foreign Animal Disease. This strain is especially problematic because it is highly contagious and affects both domestic and wild rabbits. No cases have been reported in Michigan. Outbreaks are occurring primarily in western states. MVMA, in coordination with state partners, will be providing additional information about RHDV2. For now, here are some disease highlights and links to current information from USDA, including a map of affected areas in the US and Mexico.
    • Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 (RHDV2), is a calicivirus. The virus is hardy and survives long periods of time outside the host. It survives freeze-thaw cycles and remains viable at 99°F for 3-7 days.
    • The virus is spread by oral, nasal, and parenteral transmission. The virus is present in urine and feces. Virus is also spread via fomites.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting must be taken seriously. Recommended disinfectants are bleach and Virkon®. Environmental clean up is important, including removal of soil beneath hutches.
    • The nickname for RHDV2 showing up in the media is “bunny ebola.” USDA states here that “Many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs.”
    • To control the spread of this disease, actions are being taken by both federal and state animal health and wildlife health officials. Some states have instituted movement restrictions on rabbits and even taken measures to cancel shows. Michigan has not taken any regulatory action but is closely monitoring the situation.
    • There is no RHD vaccine licensed in the US. There are vaccines licensed in the European Union that USDA may allow on a restricted basis in an emergency situation with approval and guidance from the state veterinarian.
    • Now is the time to educate your rabbit owning clients about RHDV2 and biosecurity measures they should implement now to prevent introduction of disease.
    • If you suspect this disease, immediately (within 24 hours) notify MDARD at 800-292-3939. This is an emergency disease and potential cases are investigated by MDARD and/or USDA. The regulatory agencies will work with you to assure the correct samples for testing are delivered to the correct laboratory at no cost to you or the owner.
    • Remember that if you are performing any veterinary work regulated by USDA, you need to be a USDA accredited veterinarian. Regulatory work includes activities such as writing interstate health certificates and testing animals for regulated diseases.

Michigan Veterinary Medical Association

2144 Commons Parkway
Okemos, MI 48864-3986

517.347.4666

517.347.4710

mvma@michvma.org

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