Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2): What You Need to Know

Written by Oxbow

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April 26, 2021🞄

Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA
Vice President of Technical Services & Research
Oxbow Animal Health 

It’s been a while since we’ve given you an update regarding the ongoing spread of RHDV2, and there’s been some new information that we wanted to share.

Where Have the Latest RHDV2 Cases Been Reported in the United States?

First of all, the virus is, unfortunately, doing what we expect viruses to do. RHDV2 has continued to spread over the last couple of weeks. There have been newly reported cases in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, as well as the first cases in 2021 in Texas.

At this stage, we can clearly see that the virus has really affected almost every state west of the Rockies. We don’t expect that spread to slow down, so we want to make sure that we continue to be diligent and stay aware of where the virus is.

There was a case in Arkansas that was initially reported as positive. I’m happy to share that this positive report has since been retracted by the USDA. It’s obviously a very good thing that the USDA is taking the additional steps and precautions to validate these positives tests, especially in new states.

Ongoing Research on Cross-Species Movement with RHDV2

As we’ve discussed in previous updates on the topic, while RHDV2 is fairly new to the United States, this is a virus that we’ve seen in many other countries worldwide for a couple of decades. Because of that, there’s actually been a fair bit of research that’s been done looking at this virus, its behavior in rabbits, and even some research that showed early on that this virus was found in other rodent species.

New Research Showing RHDV2 Replication in Eurasian Badger Species

This type of cross-species movement is not that uncommon in viruses, but what we do need to pay attention to is one specific paper that’s recently come out of Europe that actually showed that a certain species of Badger not only became infected with RHDV2 but was actually able to replicate the virus.  This type of cross-species movement is certainly something that can be more concerning. And while we’ve not seen this type of behavior here in the United States, it’s obviously something we want to stay aware of.

What Do These Updates Mean for Rabbit Owners?

We know the virus is continuing to spread and the single most important thing that I would ask of all of you is do not to let your guard down.
If you live in a state or a state that’s adjacent to a state with positive cases, we really want to minimize any potential risk for your animal to come in contact with the virus.  Talk with your veterinarian. If you’re thinking about travel, making sure that you’re taking those extra precautions.
If you do live in a state where the vaccine is available, work with your veterinarian, provide your animal, that preventative care.

A Note on Loosened Restrictions in Relation to RHDV2

Unfortunately, there are some organizations that have decided now is the time to loosen their restrictions in relation to RHDV2. That’s actually the exact opposite of what we should all be doing. This is a virus that has a very severe, potentially lethal input to your animals. Continue to take the precautions we’ve discussed, continue to make smart decisions, and we here at Oxbow will continue to share information with you as it becomes available.