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Fatal disease affecting rabbits detected in Utah



SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 24, 2020  — A fatal disease affecting rabbits has been detected in Utah.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) has been spreading across the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and was recently confirmed in a domestic rabbit in Sanpete County, said a news release from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

“RHDV2 is a highly contagious disease of wild and domestic rabbits that can kill 80 — 100% of infected animals,” the news release said. “In most cases, there are rarely any signs of the illness and the animal often dies in six to 24 hours. Rabbits may have a fever, nervous signs, difficulty breathing, and frothy blood coming from their noses just prior to death. RHDV2 does not affect people or other animals. There is no cure for RHDV2, and vaccines must be imported from Europe by a veterinarian.”

The virus can survive in the environment for months and can be spread by contact with infected rabbits, objects, people, or even shoes that have been contaminated by rabbit feces.

“The best way for Utah rabbit owners to protect their rabbits is to practice good biosecurity,” said Dr. Amanda Price, Utah assistant state veterinarian. “Wash your hands and change your clothes before handling your rabbits if you have been around other rabbits or in areas with wild rabbits. Keep your rabbits in hutches off the ground or inside if possible, and try to keep wild rabbits, rodents, and other animals away from your rabbits and their food.”

Unexplained dead pet rabbits should be taken to the veterinarian and reported to the state veterinarian, while dead wild rabbits should be reported to the regional Division of Wildlife Resources office.