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Animal Disease Alert Issued for Rabbit Owners and Hunters

Friday, April 02, 2021 | 10:44am

(From the Tennessee Department of Agriculture)

NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s State Veterinarian wants to make citizens aware that an outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) has been detected near the Tennessee border in Arkansas. There have been no cases found in Tennessee, but rabbit owners should be mindful of the heightened risk.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is highly contagious and fatal to domestic rabbits, wild hares, and pika. RHDV2 can be transmitted through direct contact with infected rabbits or carcasses, meat or fur, feces, bodily fluids, bedding material, feed and water bowls, and hay.

“Onset of this rabbit virus is extremely quick and it’s persistent,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “The virus can remain in the environment for an extended time, even in extreme temperatures. Pet owners and breeders should be alert for any signs their rabbits are infected.”

Infected animals may experience lethargy, decreased appetite, labored breathing, swelling, and internal bleeding. Owners should also watch for bloodstained noses or mouths although often the only sign is sudden death of the animal. RHDV2 does not affect humans or other animals.

The best defense against RHDV2 infection is increased biosecurity measures. Rabbit owners are urged to follow these procedures:

·         Separate domestic rabbits from other pets, livestock, and wild animals.

·         Thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment used for rabbit care.

·         Thoroughly wash hands, clothes, and shoes before and after contact with domestic rabbits.

·         Dedicate a pair of shoes to be worn in rabbit housing and don’t wear them outside the housing area.

·         Quarantine newly acquired domestic animals for at least 30 days from other pets and livestock.

·         Do not handle dead wild rabbits.

Hunters should wear gloves and disinfect tools, equipment, and hands after field dressing animals. Meat from healthy animals is safe for human consumption if dressed and cooked properly.

RHDV2 is a reportable foreign animal disease in the United States. Breeders who experience a high number of sudden deaths should report the mortality event to the state veterinarian’s office. All rabbits entering Tennessee are required to have a certificate of veterinary inspection. Contact the state veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120 or email animal.health@tn.gov for import requirements.

If you find dead wild rabbits, contact your nearest Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regional office. Visit tnwildlife.org for office information.

For the most current map of RHDV2 outbreaks, visit the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website at www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/maps/animal-health/rhd.