Case of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 confirmed on Orcas Island; rabbit show at Fair canceled

WSDA PRESS RELEASE:  OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has confirmed a case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in a domestic rabbit on Orcas Island. RHD 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 July 9, 2019 the Washington State Veterinarian's Office received a report of a dead domestic pet rabbit from a veterinarian clinic on Orcas Island. The veterinarian and the owner suspected possible RHD and contacted the State Veterinarian’s Office.

The remains of the dead rabbit were sent to state and federal animal disease labs for testing. On July 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the disease. Prior to this detection, Canadian animal health officials confirmed the disease in feral rabbits in British Columbia in February, 2018. The disease has since been confirmed in 10 locations in and around Vancouver Island. The first case of RHD2 detected in the U.S was last September in Ohio.

There are two main types of the virus, RHDV1 and RHDV2. The strain found in Ohio was similar to the Canadian RHDV2 strain.

RHD poses no risk to human health or other animals, but hares, jackrabbits, and wild eastern cottontails may be susceptible to RHDV2. The rabbit that died on Orcas Island was a pet, 2-year-old, male Norwegian Dwarf rabbit. No other rabbits are on the property.

Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians. If a case is suspected, veterinarians should contact APHIS or email to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office.

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 WSDA Ag Briefs for more information about RHD.

We recommend that no one move feral or domestic rabbits from Orcas Island.  

Because the disease is fatal and extremely contagious, the Fair is following the advice of the Washington State Veterinarian  Amber Itle and canceling the rabbit show at the 2019 San Juan County Fair.

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