Rabbits at risk for Sanpete County virus
By Robert Green
A positive case of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2), a highly fatal disease that affects rabbits, has been found in Sanpete County.
According to Amanda Price, Utah Assistant State Veterinarian, a domestic rabbit in Sanpete County has died from the disease and there are concerns the disease might spread into other domestic hutches and wild rabbits in the area.
A dead wild rabbit was also found nearby and the body is being tested for RDHV2, Price said. The only way to test for the disease is to test dead rabbits, Price said. The most common sign of the disease is sudden death. “The rabbit will look fine in the morning and be found dead in the evening,” she said. Another symptom is respiratory distress.
The homestead where the infected domestic rabbit was found has been quarantined, Price said. She would not reveal any more details on the location of the outbreak.
Sanpete residents interested in showing their rabbits at local 4H shows and county fairs can still do so, Price said. But the American Rabbit Breeders Association has cancelled all of its shows for a 150 mile radius unit further notice.
In the future, if the disease appears to be spreading, all shows and exhibitions may have to be cancelled, Price said. For the time being, however, follow the guidelines at bit.ly/UtahRHD.
RHDV2 is a highly contagious disease of wild and domestic rabbits that can kill 80-100% of infected animals. The fatal sickness has been spreading across the southwest and has now been detected in Utah.
In most cases, there are rarely any signs of the illness and the animal often dies within 6-24 hours. Rabbits may have a fever, nervous signs, difficulty breathing and frothy blood coming from their noses just prior to death. There is no cure for RHDV2, and vaccines must be imported from Europe by a veterinarian.
The virus can survive in the environment for months and can be spread by contact with infected rabbits, objects, people, or even shoes that have been contaminated by rabbit feces.
There is no danger of the disease spreading to human or other animals, Price said.
“The best way for Utah rabbit owners to protect their rabbits is to practice good biosecurity,” she said. “Wash your hands and change your clothes before handling your rabbits if you have been around other rabbits or in areas with wild rabbits. Keep your rabbits in hutches off the ground or inside if possible, and try to keep wild rabbits, rodents, and other animals away from your rabbits and their food.”
Unexplained dead pet rabbits should be taken to their veterinarian and reported to the state veterinarian. Dead wild rabbits should be reported to the regional Division of Wildlife Resources office.