The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) state veterinarian’s office confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) - a highly contagious and fatal disease - in two Thurston County rabbits from a single household at the end of July.
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This is the state's second confirmed detection of RHDV2 this year following a King County case in May. With two detections in two separate counties in Oregon at the end of July as well, the state veterinarian says now is the time to increase biosecurity efforts.
“Stopping this disease from spreading starts with rabbit owners employing biosecurity measures such as eliminating contact with wild rabbits, isolating new rabbits from existing ones for 21 days, paying attention to where feed is sourced from, and keeping your rabbits housed off the ground or indoors,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, said.
Although there are no specific restrictions for fairs, Dr. Itle encourages all exhibitors to get their show rabbits vaccinated to reduce the risk of contracting and dying from this extremely contagious and fatal disease.
“Please talk to your veterinarian about getting the vaccine for your rabbits.”
Dr. Itle is the Chair of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials committee on RDHV2 and has led efforts to develop guidance documents and policy around response, biosecurity, prevention, and vaccine recommendations.
If domestic rabbits contract the disease, the farm or household will be quarantined for 60 days to prevent transmission to other rabbits but restricting movement of rabbits in geographic areas will not be mandated.
Late last year the state veterinarian’s office authorized the emergency use of a domestic vaccine for RHDV2, which is now available to all Washington veterinarians.
In addition to practicing good biosecurity, Dr. Itle is calling all rabbit owners to contact their veterinarians to vaccinate their rabbits as soon as possible. Due to the extremely contagious and fatal nature of this virus, vaccination is critical for disease control to protect domestic and native wild rabbit populations alike. ■