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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV)

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is fatal to wild and domestic rabbits of all ages. It is caused by a virus and classified as a foreign animal disease in the U.S. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease serotype 2 (RHDV2) has been detected in the U.S. multiple times since 2018. RHDV2 appears to only affect rabbits and does not affect human health. RHDV2 is currently not found in Indiana, but has the potential to spread to the Hoosier state.

History & Current Range

RHDV2 was first detected in France (2010) and then Australia (2015). In 2018, the virus was detected in North America in both domestic and feral rabbits. In 2020, another outbreak quickly spread across northern Mexico and several U.S. states in both wild and domestic rabbits. Currently, it is present in the following states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Texas.

How RHDV2 Spreads

The RHDV2 virus is highly contagious and survives extreme temperatures. The virus can spread through direct contact and exposure to an infected rabbit’s excrement and blood. It can also spread through contact with contaminated materials including food, water, bedding, or other shared resources. RHDV2 could reach Indiana through the transport of an infected wild or domestic rabbit, products derived from a harvested wild rabbit, or contaminated materials such as food, bedding, clothes, and hunting equipment.

External Signs

Rabbits affected by RHDV2 may have a fever, reduced appetite, shortness of breath, and/or loss of coordination. Many times the only sign of disease is sudden death with a blood-stained nose.

Treatment & Control

Currently there is no available treatment for RHDV2 approved for use within the U.S. Enhanced biosecurity is the best control measure one can take to prevent or slow the spread of RHDV2.

Recommendations & Management Strategies

Indiana DNR needs Hoosiers’ help to slow the progress of this virus and monitor for potential cases. Individuals can use the following recommendations to reduce RHDV2’s spread:

  • Report all sick or dead wild rabbits to Indiana DNR through the reporting form.
  • Report all sick or dead domestic rabbits to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) at 317-544-2400 or animalhealth@boah.IN.gov.
  • Do not harvest, touch, or allow dogs to touch rabbits that appear sick. 
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.  
  • When cleaning game, bag any remains and dispose of bagged remains by placing in trash.  
  • Do not dispose of remains in the field or where other rabbits or scavengers may have access to them.  
  • When finished handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant. 
  • Disinfect knives, equipment, and surfaces that were in contact with game.  
  • If a dog comes into contact with a rabbit, bathe the dog with soap and water.
  • If contact with live rabbits is possible after hunting, hunters should shower and change clothing as soon as possible after cleaning game.  
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling game. 

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