Highly contagious rabbit disease identified in Hartford County

Deadly rabbit disease detected in Hartford County
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 12:56 PM EDT
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(WFSB) – A highly contagious rabbit disease was detected in Hartford County, according to the state.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture said Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) was found at a residence.

RHDV2 is a foreign animal disease that is highly contagious, the state said. It can be deadly to domestic and wild rabbits.

The disease cannot be transmitted from animals to humans, said the state.

The department reported the sudden death of 13 rabbits on September 6. A 14th died on September 8.

Laboratory testing on September 11 confirmed detection of RHDV2.

“While this case is an isolated incident and limited to one household, rabbit owners are being encouraged to ensure proper health and sanitary measures to prevent the disease by taking simple steps to reduce the chance of RHDV2 affecting rabbits,” the department of agriculture said.

“RHDV2 the difference between the original RHDV1 and this one is that not only our domestic rabbits can get affected but also wild rabbits, like jack rabbits hare and cottontails,” said Dr. Peter Sojka, Exotic Animal Veterinarian at Pieper Veterinary. “It stays on shoes and clothes for hundreds of days and it makes it difficult to control getting this disease in the household.”

Experts say that the virus cannot be transmitted from animals to humans, and there are preventive steps that you can take to keep your rabbits safe.

“Not introducing rabbits into your household especially wild and feral rabbits and if you are going to do that keeping them properly quarantined for at least 30 days to monitor their health and another big thing is to avoid sharing equipment between different households,” Sojka said.

Since the detection of the virus in the state, places like the Berlin Agricultural Fair, which kicks off on Thursday, is making adjustments to their rabbit exhibit.

“For the welfare of the animals we decided to cancel the rabbit exhibits this year and we didn’t feel that having the animals or any animals subject to chance of getting sick and dying or spreading the disease was worth having the exhibit this year,” said Leonard Tubbs with the Berlin Agricultural Fair.

The fair adds that they are offering free entry to all the rabbit exhibitors to next year’s fair.

The department gave tips that could help prevent spread of the disease:

  • Do not allow wild rabbits or pet rabbits from other locations to have contact with your rabbits or to gain entry to your facility or home.
  • Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering, and gloves).
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and when 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 your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry.

“According to the state, the source of the outbreak has not been identified. Clinical signs of rabbit hemorrhagic disease include sudden death, fever, lack of appetite, respiratory signs, nervous signs, internal bleeding leading to blood-stained noses, and anemia. The disease is confirmed through collection of postmortem tissue samples,” the department said.

For more information on the disease, click here.