Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus is a highly infectious and deadly disease affecting ONLY rabbits (domestic and wild) hares and possibly pikas. It does not affect humans or other animals, but humans and other animals can carry the virus on them if they've unknowingly been in contact with the virus. To protect your rabbits, it's important for you to know as much as you can about this deadly rabbit disease.
Currently, the disease is present in Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and California.
It is important to note that any suspicious rabbit death (domestic or wild) needs to be reported to your state veterinarian or your local veterinarian.
There has been no confirmed case yet in Missouri or Illinois, but we are preparing at the Bunny House and we want you to be prepared, too, with the best steps to protect your rabbits.
HRS is actively working on multiple fronts regarding this disease. At the moment, for Missouri, we only have biosecurity measures, but these will go a long way to protect your rabbits. Even after a vaccine is available the continued use of biosecurity measures is recommended.
Currently, in our area, the first measure we are recommending is to avoid purchasing any produce that comes from the above-affected areas as the virus could be on the produce. Any surface that comes in contact with the virus can become a fomite, meaning a carrier of the disease. For example, if a fly lands on an infected rabbit (living or dead) the fly is a fomite. If the fly lands on some produce, now the produce is a fomite carrying the disease. All produce should be washed thoroughly before given to your rabbit.
The RHD virus is not susceptible to freezing nor high temperatures. It can live on a surface for 105 days at room temperature and 225 days at 39F. It can survive heat up to 122F for one hour.
Another biosecurity measure to implement immediately is to become accustomed to removing your shoes in your home as the virus can be tracked inside on the bottom of your shoes.
It's highly recommended to keep cats inside and wash the paws of dogs before allowing them back inside the house. Taking dogs out on a leash so they don't lay down in the grass is something to think about, too, as they can bring the virus back in on their fur if they came in contact with an infected area of the lawn.
Once the disease is in our area we will be eligible to purchase a vaccine that will significantly reduce having our rabbits catch the disease or reduce the effect of the disease.
Why don't we have it now? The vaccine is currently produced in Europe and is not available in great quantities. It is important that those already in an infected area receive the vaccine first.