In April 2021, Tennessee’s State Veterinarian issued a warning for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV2). Arkansas first reported cases of the virus on the Tennesee border in March 2021. Local authorities are urging both rabbit owners and hunters to stay vigilant as the virus is likely to spread throughout the state.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is believed to have originated in European rabbit populations and until last year in 2020, RHDV was not detected in North American rabbit populations. States already battling the deadly virus include California, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Texas.
The virus is characterized by sudden death in rabbits and can spread through populations via bodily fluids, feces, water, and food. Infected rabbits may exhibit labored breathing, decreased appetite, fatigue, and internal bleeding. Rabbit owners should watch for bloodstained noses and mouths as possible signs of RHDV.
It’s important to note that RHDV does not affect humans. So, there’s no need to be frightened by the possibility of your rabbit infecting you. However, the virus does have serious implications for native rabbit populations, rabbit owners, and rabbit breeders. Rabbit owners can spread the virus by handling dead rabbits or objects contaminated with the virus. Therefore, it’s important to maintain hygiene standards and not cross-contaminate food bowls, water dishes, or allow pet rabbits to interact with wild populations. The virus is hardy and can remain viable outside of a host. Studies have shown that the virus can survive on fabric at room temperature for 3.5 months. Therefore, it is important to remain cautious when exposing your rabbit to other rabbits or places where other rabbits have inhabited.
In the USA, several states have adopted policies to control the spread of the virus. Check with your destination state to ensure you are following regulations and import requirements.
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