House Rabbit Society of Missouri is happy to announce that all rabbits adopted from us will have their RHDV2 vaccine. Missouri was approved by the state veterinarian to receive the vaccine and we are extremely grateful that our bunnies can be vaccinated and protected before the virus hits our state. A large number of our rabbits have already received their first vaccine dose and the remaining rabbits will receive their first dose this weekend. There are over 100 rabbits in our shelter who will be protected from this deadly disease.
RHDV2 stands for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type-2. The disease only affects rabbits and hares. It does not affect humans or other animals, but is highly contagious for rabbits and usually fatal. The vaccine is a two dose process with the second dose given three weeks after the first dose. Any adopters getting a bunny in between doses will be required to return for the second dose. Many species of pets, like cats and dogs, already require several vaccines in order to avoid a variety of diseases. This is the first time that rabbits also need a protective vaccine due to the rapid spread of RHDV2 in the United States.
How RHDV2 Spreads: The RHDV2 virus is very resistant to extreme temperatures. It can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can also survive and spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes. Any vector, such as insects or anything that touches an infected surface can pass along the virus. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, bleeding, loss of appetite, lethargy,fever, jaundice, seizures, and sudden death. Most rabbits die within hours to days after exposure, while asymptomatic carriers can shed virus for over a month. The virus impairs the blood’s ability to clot, and death is most often caused by liver failure, or internal or external bleeding. There is no known cure and treatment is limited to supportive care. That's why this vaccine is so very important to protect the life of your rabbit.
The virus is extremely resilient in the environment and can survive and remain infectious [without a host] for three and a half months at +25 °C(77F) and for as long as seven and a half months at +4 °C (39F). Even at+60 °C (140F), the virus can survive for 2-3 days. Many routes of viral transmission Infection can occur throughout the year, but infection rates peak at times when the virus is being spread quickly by flying insects, which are among its carriers. The blood-sucking insects which carry the virus include mosquitoes, biting flies, lice, mites and the rabbit flea.
Direct transmission routes: Feces Urine Saliva Nasal and eye secretions Mating
Indirect transmission routes: Insects/wild birds/rodents Clothing, shoes, etc.
Dogs, cats or people. Food. Cleaning equipment and tools.
Cages and bedding. Dust.
Here are some websites for more information:
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 bio-security measures, but these will go a long way to protect your rabbits. Even after a vaccine is available the continued use of bio-security 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.
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.