On Sept. 19, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHD2) was detected in a domestic rabbit in Medina County. This is the first confirmed case of RHD2 in the United States. It’s important to remember RHD2 does not pose a threat to humans or other animals, but is highly fatal in rabbits.
The rabbits at this location were housed in horse stalls and ran free in those stalls. They have been on site for several years and there has been no movement of rabbits on or off the premises recently. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) will work with state and federal partners to conduct surveillance of wild rabbits near the location.
RHD is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits. It can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, as well as by materials having contact with infected animals. Again, this disease does not affect people or other animals. There are two main types of RHD: RHD1 and RHD2. This is the first detection of RHD2 in the United States. Currently there are no vaccines for use in the U.S. so the best way to protect rabbits is by enhanced biosecurity practices.
The time from infection to first signs of RHD2 disease may be up to nine days. Affected rabbits may develop a fever and die within 12 to 36 hours. Infected rabbits may appear dull and be reluctant to eat; have congested membranes around the eyes; show nervous signs, incoordination or excitement; and paddling. Breathing may be difficult, and a blood-stained, frothy nasal discharge may be seen at death. Rabbits shed RHD2 in the urine or feces for as long as four weeks after infection. RHD virus can be spread on contaminated food, bedding, fur and water. Transmission of the RHD virus over short distances can occur by the contaminated clothing of people, biting insects, birds, rodents, wild animals, fur or vehicles.
Although RHD2 does not pose a threat to humans, other animals or the food supply, it must be reported to state or federal authorities immediately upon diagnosis or suspicion of the disease. If you suspect cases of the disease, have questions or need more information, please contact ODA Division of Animal Health at (614) 728-6220.
—Tony Forshey, DVM
State Veterinarian and Chief, ODA Division of Animal Health