Sudden death of wild rabbits

The sudden death of wild rabbits in Greenville has prompted a warning from animal health authorities. The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center said the dead animals were tested in Colombia and diagnosed with rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2). The diagnosis was confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). This is the first time RHDV2 has been detected in South Carolina, according to the center. Officials say the surviving rabbits on site have been quarantined and animal health authorities have asked owners to confine them in hutches to prevent further spread and to prevent further contact with wild rabbits. “The mortality rate of RHDV2 is 70% or more. Our goal at this point is to do what we can to prevent the virus from spreading through the wild rabbit population and potentially further infecting domestic rabbits,” said Michael Neault, state veterinarian and director of Clemson University. Livestock Poultry Health (LPH). Clinical signs of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and blood-stained nose or mouth. RHDV2 is a highly contagious calicivirus that affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits and hares. The virus is excreted by infected rabbits and transmitted by direct contact, litter, water, food, hay and other materials used for the care and feeding of rabbits. It can also be spread by insects and human contact. The introduction of RHDV2 to wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do everything possible to prevent contact between infected wild rabbits and wild rabbits,” said Will Dillman, deputy chief of wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The USDA recommends the following biosecurity practices: rabbits or wild rabbits coming into contact with your rabbits or entering the facility or home. Do not allow visitors to enter hutches or handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair coverings and gloves). Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before entering the rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area. Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or unreliable sources. Do not add rabbits to your rabbit farm from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations. If you bring any outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separate from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease. Disinfect all equipment and cages moved inside or outside the premises before returning them to the hutch. It is recommended to disinfect with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water (follow cleaning instructions on label). Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment (biosecurity) practices to reduce risk to healthy rabbits. If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect RHDV2, please contact your veterinarian.

The sudden death of wild rabbits in Greenville has prompted a warning from animal health authorities.

The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center said the dead animals were tested in Columbia and diagnosed with rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2).

The diagnosis was confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).

This is the first time RHDV2 has been detected in South Carolina, according to the center.

Officials say the surviving rabbits on site have been quarantined and animal health authorities have asked owners to confine them to hutches to prevent further spread and to prevent further contact with wild rabbits.

“The mortality rate of RHDV2 is 70% or more. Our goal at this point is to do what we can to prevent the virus from spreading through the wild rabbit population and potentially further infecting domestic rabbits,” said Michael Neault, state veterinarian and director of Clemson University. Livestock Poultry Health (LPH).

Clinical signs of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and blood-stained nose or mouth.

RHDV2 is a highly contagious calicivirus that affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits and hares. The virus is excreted by infected rabbits and transmitted by direct contact, litter, water, food, hay and other materials used for the care and feeding of rabbits. It can also be spread by insects and human contact.

Neault says that although RHDV2 has no impact on human health, it has a high mortality rate in domestic and wild rabbits and has become endemic in the western United States. There is no live test for RHDV2.

“The introduction of RHDV2 to wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do all we can to prevent contact between infected wild rabbits and wild rabbits,” said Will Dillman, deputy wildlife chief for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The USDA recommends the following biosecurity practices:

  • Do not allow pet rabbits or wild rabbits to come into contact with your rabbits or enter the establishment or home.
  • Do not allow visitors to enter hutches or handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair coverings and gloves).
  • Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before entering the rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or unreliable sources. Do not add rabbits to your rabbit farm from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations.
  • If you bring any outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separate from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
  • Disinfect all equipment and cages moved inside or outside the premises before returning them to the hutch. It is recommended to disinfect with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water (follow cleaning instructions on label).
  • Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment (biosecurity) practices to reduce risk to healthy rabbits.

If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect RHDV2, please contact your veterinarian.

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