Cases of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Expand in Texas

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AUSTIN —Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), with the help of the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC), has detected the eastward expansion of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) in the state. First found in dead rabbits in El Paso, Terrell, Brewster and Reeves counties, RHDV2 cases have expanded to Gillespie County and Mills County.

The detection in Gillespie County and Mills County represents the first wild case of RHDV2 in the Hill Country. TPWD continues to receive and respond to mortality events in wild rabbits and hares across the state. If you notice sick or dead wild rabbits, contact a local TPWD wildlife biologist. Learn more about RHDV2 in wild rabbits on the RHDV page of the TPWD website.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbit species including hares, jackrabbits and cottontails. This disease is nearly always fatal and affects rabbits of all ages. The viral agent, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), is a calicivirus with two strains, RHDV1 and RHDV2, both being reported in North America in recent years. RHDV appears only to affect rabbit species (lagomorphs). It is not known to affect humans, livestock or pets. However, pets should not be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses.

Often the only clinical sign is sudden death. In less acute cases, clinical signs in rabbits have included dullness/apathy, not eating, bleeding from the nose and eyes or watery, congested eyes. Some may also exhibit neurological signs such as incoordination, excitement or seizure-like episodes.

This highly contagious disease spreads between rabbits easily through direct contact with infected rabbits or carcasses in addition to contaminated meat, fur, food, water, insects or materials and objects they may encounter. RHDV2 is resistant to desiccation and can persist in the environment for a very long time. These factors make disease control efforts extremely challenging once it is in wild rabbit populations.

Domestic rabbit owners who have questions about RHDV2 or observe sudden death in their rabbits should contact their private veterinarian. Private veterinarians are requested to contact the USDA-APHIS or the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) to report any suspected cases at (800) 550-8242. Rabbit owners or breeders should practice biosecurity on their farms and in their homes. Report all unusual mass morbidity (sickness) or mortality (deaths) events to the TAHC.

Find more information about RHDV on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service fact sheet.