An infectious viral disease of rabbits, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2), has recently been confirmed in a wild eastern cottontail rabbit in Albany County. This disease has also been reported in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, in both domestic and wild rabbits.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have been conducting RHDV2 enhanced passive surveillance in wild and feral rabbits across the state since RHDV2 is highly contagious, fatal and affects domestic, feral and wild rabbits, including hares, jackrabbits and cottontails.
RHDV2 is caused by a calicivirus, a viral pathogen which has been shown to affect rabbits in North America and in other parts of the world. Humans, non-rabbit domestic pets and livestock have not been shown to become infected with RHDV2.
This viral pathogen can cause sudden death in rabbits and can be spread through direct contact with other infected rabbits, their meat or fur or materials coming in contact with them. The virus can survive in the environment for an extended period of time.
Currently, there are no licensed RHDV2 vaccines produced in the United States. The Center for Veterinary Biologics is approving importation of two RHDV2 vaccines. Accredited veterinarians may import vaccine at the discretion of the state veterinarian and USDA Veterinarian in Charge. An APHIS import permit is required. The accredited veterinarian is responsible for international shipment logistics of the vaccine.
The presence of RHDV2 in the U.S. domestic rabbit industry or in the wild rabbit populations could potentially impact the pet rabbit industry, 4- H, FFA and other academic, industry and hobby groups such as exhibitions, laboratories, livestock, pelt and hunting.
Good biosecurity measures for rabbit owners should include hand washing before and after working with rabbits, a change of clothing and footwear and not sharing equipment with other rabbit owners. Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarian.