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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease of domesticated and wild rabbits. Beginning in March 2020, samples submitted from wild rabbit deaths in southern New Mexico were identified to be positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV-2). These were the first detections of RHDV-2 in wild North American hares. On March 24, 2020, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (NVSL-FADDL) confirmed positive PCR results for RHDV-2 from domestic rabbit liver tissue in New Mexico. Subsequently, RHDV-2 has since been detected in seven states:

  • New Mexico (domestic and wildlife)
  • Arizona (domestic and wildlife)
  • Texas (domestic and wildlife)
  • Colorado (domestic and wildlife)
  • Nevada (domestic)
  • California (wildlife)
  • Utah (domestic and wildlife)
  • California (domestic and wildlife)

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is aware of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) and its implications to the industry. Currently, there are no approved vaccines licensed in the United States for RHD. The importation and use of unlicensed vaccine is currently being restricted to states that have a confirmed positive case of RHDV with approval from the State Veterinarian required to be included with any permit applications.

RHD is a notifiable Foreign Animal Disease and individuals or practitioners who suspect or have concerns about RHD in domestic or wild hare populations should contact NDA or USDA-APHIS-VS. NDA and USDA’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnosticians are prepared to collect and submit samples for RHD.

Biosecurity Recommendations to Protect Your Rabbits:

  • Establish a veterinary relationship.
  • House rabbits indoors if possible.
  • Maintain a closed rabbitry.
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Purchase from low-risk sources.
  • Quarantine new/returning rabbits for 30 days.
  • Separate footwear for barn, house, off farm.
  • Control flies, biting insects, and vermin.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry.
  • Do not put rabbits on the ground outside.
  • Do not use forage, branches, etc. for bedding.
  • Know where your feed comes from - do not feed grass or other forage that could be contaminated.

Additional Resources

USDA - Risk Identification

USDA - Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Factsheet

Iowa State University - Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

EPA and USDA Release Information for Mitigating Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) Outbreak

Press Releases

NDA Encourages Rabbit Owners to Watch for Hemorrhagic Disease