Ag officials warn against rabbit virus

by Staff report
| September 20, 2022 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture have confirmed the presence in the state of yet another highly infectious animal disease with the discovery of two cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2, also known as RHDV2, in a single household in Thurston County in late July.

In a press release issued last week, WSDA said the confirmation of the Thurston County cases follow the discovery of RHDV2 in King County in May and two Oregon counties in late July. WSDA said in response, state officials and rabbit owners need to improve biosecurity in order to limit the spread of the disease.

“Stopping this disease from spreading starts with rabbit owners employing biosecurity measures such as limiting contact with wild rabbits, isolating new rabbits from existing ones for 21 days, paying attention to where feed is sourced from, and keeping your rabbits housed off the ground or indoors,” Washington State Veterinarian Amber Itle said in the press release.

While the state is not yet imposing any restrictions on showing rabbits at county fairs, Itle encourages all exhibitors to get their rabbits vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the risk of spread.

In 2021, WSDA approved an RHDV2 vaccine for emergency use, the press release said, adding that the vaccine should now be available to veterinarians across the state.

According to the press release, a new strain of RHDV2 has been reported in 15 states since the spring of 2020. The disease is endemic in wild rabbits, and thus likely impossible to eradicate, the press release added.