The Washington State Department of Agriculture this week issued a warning of a disease that affects rabbits and has been detected in British Columbia.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease serotype virus 2 (RHDV2) is known to affect domestic and feral European rabbits, according to the Department of Agriculture's release, but it is not known how it affects native North American wild rabbits, which are typically cottontail and jack rabbits.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported detection of RDHV2 on March 8, after rabbit deaths were reported on Vancouver Island. Tests are in progress to see if the disease has spread to the Canadian mainland, and officials are reviewing a vaccine for RDHV2, according to the release, but there is no vaccine currently available in the U.S.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) causes a high rate of infection among rabbits and death. The rabbits that died in Canada were European rabbits that had gone feral. European rabbits are the types most commonly used for show animals by 4H, FFA and other hobby groups.
While the disease does not affect people, it can be spread through contaminated clothing or vehicles, as well as contaminated food, bedding fur and water or by direct contact with infected animals.
The best way to protect your rabbits, according to the release, is to practice good bio security, including good sanitation and disinfection and keeping new rabbits separated from your existing rabbits.
It can take up to nine days after infection for the first signs to show. Signs of infection, according to the release, include listlessness, lake of appetite, congested membranes around the eyes, nervousness, lake of coordination, excitement or paddling or difficulty breathing. Rabbit owners are advised to contact a veterinarian if any of those symptoms present.
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