IMMEDIATE: APHIS Detects Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) In a Domestic Ohio Rabbit

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On September 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed a case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in a domestic Ohio rabbit. RHD is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits. It may be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or their fur, and materials having contact with those items.

Prior to this detection, Canadian animal health officials first confirmed the disease in February 2018 in feral rabbits in British Columbia. The disease has since been confirmed in 10 locations in and around Vancouver Island. There are two main types of RHD - RHDV1 and RHDV2. This is the first detection of RHD2 in the United States and sequencing confirmed that the strain found in the Ohio rabbit is highly similar to the Canadian RHDV2 strain. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is currently investigating this incident.

RHD poses no risk to human health or other animals; however, hares, jackrabbits, and wild eastern cottontails may be particularly susceptible to RHDV2. For now, APHIS considers this to be an isolated case and, for that reason, there are no Federal interstate movement restrictions. Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians. If a case is suspected, veterinarians should contact APHIS and/or the State veterinarian immediately.

A vaccine for RHDV2 is not currently available in the US. Because RHD is a reportable disease, the USDA reported the Ohio case to the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) on September 21, 2018.

What You Can Do

The goal is to prevent this disease from impacting our domestic and wild rabbit populations. To minimize the risk, here are some actions you can take to help:

  • If you live near or visit the area where this disease has been confirmed, do not touch any dead wild rabbits you may see.
  • If you see multiple dead wild rabbits, report it to wildlife officials.
  • If you own domestic rabbits, do not release them into the wild. If your rabbits appear ill or die suddenly, contact your veterinarian.
  • If you volunteer at animal shelters or wildlife rescue facilities, be aware that this disease has been found in feral rabbits across the border. If rabbits appear ill or die suddenly, contact the facility’s veterinarian.
  • Anyone working with rabbits should practice good biosecurity. This includes basic steps like washing your hands before and after working with rabbits and not sharing equipment with other owners.



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