Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV) is a highly resistant highly virulent calicivirus that causes liver necrosis and failure in rabbits and other lagomorphs (hares/jackrabbits, maybe pikas). It results in 70-100% mortality in affected populations. It is highly resistant to temperature, certain disinfectants and other environmental factors and can easily be spread via fomites (shoes, cages, food/water dishes, insects, scavengers, etc.). Think parvo but with much higher fatality rate. The virus is not transmissible to humans or other domestic animals and there is no vaccine available in the US as yet (there are 3 in Europe so we might get some if the outbreak spreads rapidly—some veterinarians in arizona are working on importation right now). The international, US and California wildlife rehab organizations have all published warnings about the virus—in California it is still restricted to the LA and San Diego areas.
Until we have a vaccine available we cannot see wild rabbits at Whispering Pines. Uninjured baby rabbits should be returned to where they were found and injured rabbits can possibly be brought to another rehabilitation facility. These rules are made to keep our pet rabbit patients safe.
Clients with pet rabbits should read the following recommendations from the international wildlife rehabilitation council:
● Never release domestic rabbits into the wild
● Rabbits should be housed indoors
● Maintain a closed rabbitry
● Do not allow dogs (cats, chickens or other pets) near rabbit areas – clean pet paws prior to their re-entering rehabilitator’s home
● Avoid taking rabbits to shows and fairs
● Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling any rabbits
● New rabbits should be quarantined for a minimum of 10 days; symptomatic and infected rabbits require longer quarantine – rabbits can shed up to a month and reportedly 15 weeks after being ill so the longest quarantine period would be 4 months
● If you have been in contact with other rabbits, wash clothes prior to wearing them around your rabbits
● If you volunteer at a shelter/rescue, have special clothes that are worn only at the facility and removed prior to leaving the shelter/rescue. Put plastic bags over shoes and secure the bags with rubber bands – remove the bags and dispose them prior to getting into your vehicle
● Do not allow visitors into rabbitries unless they are wearing PPE (coveralls, shoe covers, hair coverings and gloves)
● Adopt a no-shoes in the house policy so nothing can be transmitted from the outdoors
● If foot bath is used to enter and leave facility, disinfectants must be changed at minimum daily, possibly more based on foot traffic
● Recommend one-way in and one-way out for rabbitry, if possible
● No contaminated items can be brought back into facility without being properly disinfected
● No transfer of cecotropes from one rabbit to another
● Minimize insects in the home (flies, mosquitos) – install screens and windows
● Institute regular cleanings of facility during designated times during the day.
● Know your sources of hay and feed and ensure they are not near an infected area
● Use monthly flea treatment (Revolution and Advantage are safe products for rabbits); for rabbits, cats, and dogs, in the area of an outbreak, and especially if any pets go outdoors
See the following links from the state and USDA for further information: