The Connecticut Department of Agriculture Confirms Incidence of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus in Hartford County
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has confirmed Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) at a private residence in Hartford County.
RHDV2 is highly contagious foreign animal disease and can be fatal to domestic and wild rabbits but cannot be transmitted from animals to humans. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 (RHDV2) has previously been detected in domestic rabbits in New York and New Jersey and has spread through multiple states in the southwestern United States.
On September 6, 2022, a report of sudden death in 13 of 14 rabbits was reported to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and samples were submitted on the same day to the USDA Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. The 14th rabbit died on September 8, 2022. RHDV2 detection was confirmed via laboratory testing on September 11, 2022.
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 following best practices are recommended:
- 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.
The outbreak’s source has not yet been identified, and there is no evidence of infection in other locations. The epidemiologic investigation is ongoing. RHDV2 is a reportable disease, and owners should monitor their rabbits for the disease’s clinical signs.
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.
In November 2021, the Connecticut State Veterinarian, Dr. Jane Lewis approved the sale of a RHDV2 vaccine manufactured by Medgene Labs of Brookings, S.D. The vaccine can only be used by Connecticut licensed veterinarians in domestic rabbits. The USDA's Center for Veterinary Biologics granted the vaccine Emergency Use Authorization as an experimental vaccine to protect against RHDV2. Because this vaccine is unlicensed and there is currently no test available to distinguish infected from vaccinated animals, Dr. Lewis is requiring that veterinarians verify that rabbits who are receiving the vaccine have permanent identification, either in the form of tattoo or a microchip, and the identification must be recorded in the medical record. Furthermore, the vaccine may not be resold or distributed to members of the public or to non-approved veterinary practices. Rabbit owners are encouraged to speak with their licensed veterinarian about RHDV2 vaccination.
All veterinarians and rabbit owners are encouraged to be alert for RHDV2 and continue practicing good biosecurity to prevent the spread of RHDV2. If a veterinarian suspects RHDV2, please alert the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Veterinarian at 860- 713-2505 or the 24-hour number to report a suspect foreign animal disease to USDA APHIS VS Area Veterinarian in Charge is 866-536-7593.
More information about Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease can be found at:
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division is working closely with the State Veterinarian’s office to monitor RHDV2. This disease could pose significant threats to the conservation of our only native wild rabbit, the New England cottontail, which already faces many conservation challenges and declining populations throughout much of its range. Remember, domestic or pet rabbits or hares should never be released into nature, since they may spread RHDV2 or other diseases. To report unusual deaths in wild rabbits, email:
email@example.com. Please include location information, your contact information, and, if possible, a photo of the rabbit.
To learn more about the risk of RHDV2 to wild rabbits visit: https://newenglandcottontail.org/content/potential-virus-threat