It’s giving me anxiety as a bunny parent, so I needed to share this. This morning, I received an email from my Charlotte vet regarding this matter, and I appreciate them doing so.
In March of 2020, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (“RHD”) began infecting the predominant wild rabbit populations in the continental United States – jackrabbits and American cottontails. Although the virus originated in New Mexico, it is rapidly spreading across the western United States, and it has now been reported in our neighboring state of Tennessee. The virus is not expected to stop spreading anytime soon. In late January, RHDV2 was detected in two domestic rabbits in East Tennessee.
About the Disease
It spreads easily and is usually fatal to rabbits due to a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Once infected, rabbits can die as soon as 24 to 72 hours later with shallow, labored breathing, lethargy, and bleeding from the mouth, anus, nose, eyes, and vagina. The virus survives freeze-thaw cycles outside and can be spread through clothing, animal hair, wild rabbits, brushes, and insects. RHD will become endemic in the United States because wild rabbits can now transmit the disease. The USDA website has the most current map of RHDV2 outbreaks.
Luckily my rabbit doesn’t go outside, but as you read there are other ways it could spread. There is actually an FDA-approved vaccine now, which I am definitely going to get him. One thing I would like everyone to remember is if you travel to states that are currently experiencing die-offs and take part in outdoor activities, make sure to clean clothing and disinfect shoes before returning to your state. This can help reduce the spread.
To help keep your domestic rabbit safe, keep your bunny indoors or keep rabbit enclosures raised and off the ground. Always wash hands, clothes, and shoes before and after contact with domestic rabbits. Remember not t0 handle dead or wild rabbits. and if you have a new domestic rabbit, quarantine them for at least 30 days from other animals. Now, look at these sweet photos of my rabbit Theodore below.