Pet Health Library

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2)

rabbit on grass

Background

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious and usually fatal virus that affects both wild and domestic (“pet”) rabbits. The virus can be transmitted not only from rabbit to rabbit, but via food, bedding, or other contaminated materials.

A vaccination for the virus has existed for years in Europe and other parts of the world, but not in the United States. In October 2021, a new U.S.-developed vaccine received emergency authorization from the USDA. In preliminary studies, the vaccine proved highly effective in preventing disease with minimal side effects.

The vaccine series consists of the initial vaccine and a booster shot approximately 3 weeks after the initial dose. A rabbit is considered fully protected two weeks after the booster shot.

Signs

Often the only signs of the disease are sudden death and possibly blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also exhibit the following signs:

  • Fever
  • Inappetence
  • Trouble breathing

Treatment

There is no known cure for RHDV2, and the disease has an estimated fatality rate of 90 percent. While the virus can be devastating to wild and domestic rabbit populations, it causes no medical concern for humans.

Prevention

Biosecurity

• Do not allow pet or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or gain entry to your home.

• Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area.

• Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or untrusted sources.

• If you bring outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separated from existing pet rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired rabbits to avoid potentially spreading disease.

• Sanitize all equipment and cages by disinfecting with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water.

Vaccine 

In October 2021, a new U.S.-developed vaccine received emergency authorization from the USDA. In preliminary studies, the vaccine proved highly effective in preventing disease with minimal side effects.

The vaccine series consists of the initial vaccine and a booster shot approximately 3 weeks after the initial dose. A rabbit is considered fully protected two weeks after the booster shot.

infographic about Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2

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