Quarantine Zones for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in effect in the San Juan Islands - No danger to humans

Washington State Department of Agriculture has issued an emergency rule in an attempt to keep rabbit hemorrhagic fever - a highly contagious and deadly foreign animal disease - from spreading from the San Juan Islands to the mainland. The disease was identified on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Islands this summer. The emergency rule will be in effect for 120 days.

The WSDA advises: 

Do not contact dead or living wild or feral rabbits on the islands. 

Do not bring pet or other rabbits onto the islands. 

Do not move wild, feral or domestic rabbits off islands. 

Do not transport flies in vehicles.

Launder clothing and clean and after leaving the islands. 

Educate others about this situation.

Wash your hands about being outside.

MORE INFORMATION ON WSDA's BLOG

Chapter 16-51 WAC Quarantine Zones for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

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WAC 16-51-005 Definitions.

“Department” means the Washington state department of agriculture.

“Director” means the director of the Washington state department of agriculture.

“Premises” means any property where rabbits are raised, held, or boarded.

“RHD” means Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

“USDA, APHIS” means the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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WAC 16-51-006 Necessity of establishing a quarantine zone for RHD - Purpose.

This chapter is authorized by RCW 16.36.040. In July and August 2019, the department confirmed positive diagnoses of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) found in domestic rabbits and domestic feral rabbits on Orcas Island and San Juan Island in San Juan County within Washington State. A die off and reports of sick and dead rabbits consistent with RHD was also reported on Lopez Island.

RHD is an extremely infectious and almost universally fatal viral disease that is not endemic to Washington. It is reportable to the OIE (Office International de Epizooties, also known as the World Health Organization for Animal Health) under WAC 16-70-010.

The establishment of RHD in Washington mainlands would be costly to the rabbit industry and consumers. It is of particular concern due to potential partial loss of livelihood for rabbit breeders, loss of companion animals, loss of animals for 4-H participants and loss of primary protein source for individuals raising rabbits for consumption. The RHD virus is very contagious and easily spread through numerous means including direct contact with infected live or dead rabbits and/or contact with contaminated equipment, tools, hutches, and bedding.

The director of agriculture, pursuant to authorities in chapter 16.36 RCW, has determined that the containment of RHD on the above islands is necessary to protect domestic rabbits on the Washington mainland and unaffected islands.

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WAC 16-51-007 Zone 1 under quarantine for RHD.

A quarantine zone is created within Lopez Island. All premises lying within the boundaries of Lopez Island fall under movement restrictions per WAC 16-51-010 and WAC 16-51-011.

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WAC 16-51-008 Zone 2 under quarantine for RHD.

A quarantine zone is created within Orcas Island. All premises lying within the boundaries of Orcas Island fall under movement restrictions per WAC 16-51-010 and WAC 16-51-011.

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WAC 16-51-009 Zone 3 under quarantine for RHD.

A quarantine zone is created within San Juan Island. All premises lying within the boundaries of San Juan Island fall under movement restrictions per WAC 16-51-010 and WAC 16-51-011.

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WAC 16-51-010 Prohibition on moving rabbits from the quarantine zones established for RHD.

Movement of living or dead rabbits out of the quarantine zones listed in sections 16-51-007, 16-51-008, and 16-51-009 is prohibited.

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WAC 16-51-011 Prohibition on moving rabbit products, crates, and rabbit equipment from the quarantine zones established for RHD.

Movement of rabbit products, crates, and rabbit equipment out of the quarantine zones listed in sections 16-51-007, 16-51-008, and 16-51-009 is prohibited.

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WAC 16-51-012 Disposal of dead rabbits originating within the quarantine zones.

Dead rabbits may only be disposed of by burial or landfill in accordance with WAC 16-25-025(1) and WAC 16-25-025(5).

(1) Burial.

(a) A carcass may be disposed of by burial on the property where the livestock animal died if done with the approval of the property owner.

(b) A carcass must be buried to a depth so that no part of the carcass is nearer than three feet to the natural surface of the ground. Every part of the carcass must be covered with at least three feet of soil within twenty-four hours of placement in the ground.

(c) Carcass burial must be:

(i) At least three hundred feet from any well, spring, or body of surface water, such as a river, stream, lake, pond, or intermittent stream;

(ii) At least three hundred feet from any residence not owned by the owner of the livestock animal;

(iii) At least fifty feet from any property line between parcels under different ownership; and

(iv) Not in a low-lying area subject to seasonal flooding or within a hundred-year flood plain or in a manner that will impact groundwater.

(d) Each burial site is limited to one thousand pounds of carcasses or one livestock animal weighing more than one thousand pounds.

(e) Carcass burial is not allowed on a property of less than five acres, except for the burial of a single carcass weighing less than two hundred pounds. The maximum amount of land used for burial during any year is limited to ten percent of the property or one acre, whichever is greater.

(2) Landfill. Carcasses may be disposed of at a privately or publicly owned landfill with prior approval of the local health officer and the landfill operator, and permitted in accordance with chapter 70.95 RCW and chapters 173-350 and 173-351 WAC.

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WAC 16-51-013 Special permits—quarantine zone.

The department may issue special permits for actions otherwise forbidden under provisions of this chapter. These special permits shall be conditioned to minimize the risk of spreading RHD.

6 comments

  • PJ
    PJ Saturday, 15 February 2020 08:03 Comment Link

    The disease DOES NOT affect humans in any way. Look at this as an absolute blessing! There is finally a solution to the destruction of sensitive island habitat by introduced and invasive European rabbits. I feel terrible for people with pet or livestock rabbits, but this is over all a strong win.

    For those having difficulty finding information (I suggest the use of google) here is a link with some basics.

    https://www.vanislevet.com/rabbit-hemorrhagic-disease/

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  • Norm Garrison
    Norm Garrison Monday, 23 September 2019 23:41 Comment Link

    I understand that there is some law that says dead rabbits (from the disease) can be disposed of in public and/or private landfills. The disease RHDV is extremely contagious; it can be transmitted on fomites and by insects, birds and scavenging mammals, feces, urine, etc. I read that the virus can live 2 to 8 months after the "host" dies. It seems to me a landfill option would be a poor choice of disposal. In addition to this, most areas with waste services don't have landfills, and disposing of dead animals is prohibited in most of them. Most homeowners/property owners would be prohibited from burying them (WAC 16-51-012). So that begs the question....when you find a dead one, what SHOULD you do with it....particularly on an island! This notice was not very helpful in telling people what they should do if they run across dead rabbits in a quarantine area.

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  • Darrin Dunn
    Darrin Dunn Saturday, 21 September 2019 20:21 Comment Link

    Is this harmful to humans? Also, is it possible to somehow carry it home to my pet if I've had no contact with an infected animal?

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  • Carrie
    Carrie Saturday, 21 September 2019 14:05 Comment Link

    Does this disease affect humans?

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  • Wendy Trout
    Wendy Trout Saturday, 21 September 2019 12:13 Comment Link

    Has it spread to any humans?

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  • Linda Torlay
    Linda Torlay Saturday, 21 September 2019 06:23 Comment Link

    WAC 16-51-012 disposal of dead rabbits originating within the quarantine zones notes that an infected rabbit can be disposed of at a privately or publicly owned landfill.
    How does simply tossing a diseased body in a landfill prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease??

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