Rabbit hemorrhagic disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV-2)
What is rabbit hemorrhagic disease, and how does it impact rabbits?
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease serotype 2 (RHDV-2) is classified as a foreign animal disease in the U.S. RHDV-2 is not related to the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Both domestic and wild rabbits, as well as pikas, are susceptible to the disease, and infection results in 80–100% mortality.
Rabbits may become sick one to five days after exposure and have symptoms of fever, lethargy, a lack of appetite, difficulty breathing and frothy blood coming from their nose just prior to death. The virus causes liver inflammation that prevents blood from clotting and eventually the rabbit dies from internal hemorrhage (bleeding). There is no treatment for RHDV-2.
How is the disease spread?
The virus can survive for months in the environment, and rabbits can be infected by direct contact to sick rabbits or through contact with the urine or feces of sick rabbits or through contact with feces from predators that have eaten infected rabbits. Rabbits can also be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or items (including the boots and clothing of people who have been in contact with the disease).
When was the disease confirmed in rabbits in Utah?
First identified in domestic rabbits in Europe, the disease has been detected in multiple southwestern states and northern Mexico in early 2020. On June 22, 2020, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food confirmed that a private farm with domestic rabbits in Sanpete County had rabbits that tested positive for the disease.
How can you tell if a rabbit has the disease?
Infected wild rabbits may be lethargic and not flee when approached. Prior to death, they may have bloody discharge coming out of their nose.
Can it spread to people?
No, people are not susceptible to RHDV-2. However, humans can carry the virus from one location to the other on clothing, contaminated items and boots.
Can it spread to my dog?
No, dogs and other animals are not susceptible to RHDV-2. However, similarly to people, dogs could carry the disease from one place to another.
What should I do if I find a dead rabbit in the wild?
If you see multiple dead rabbits in an area, please contact the nearest Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office and wildlife officials will determine whether the animals should be sent in for testing. Always wear disposable gloves when handling a dead animal, and wash your hands thoroughly after. Rabbit carcasses that are not fresh enough to be tested should be double bagged and disposed of by deep burial or landfill.
What should I do if I suspect my pet rabbits have the disease?
Prevent contact between your domestic rabbits and any wild rabbits. If you think your pet rabbit has the disease, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Could a cottontail or snowshoe rabbit that I harvest during a hunt have the disease?
The disease is highly infectious and causes rapid death, so if the rabbit you harvested seemed to act normally at the time of the hunt, it is unlikely that it has the disease. However, if you notice any discoloration or hemorrhages on internal organs after harvesting the rabbit or if you see anything that may appear abnormal or a cause for concern, please contact your local DWR office.
Where can I get more information about RHDV-2 in Utah?
- The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food website: https://ag.utah.gov/farmers/animal-industry/animal-health-program/rabbit-hemorrhagic-disease/
- The Center for Food Security and Public Health website: http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/rabbit_hemorrhagic_disease.pdf
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/fs-rhdv2.pdf