By Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA
Vice President of Technical and Research, Oxbow Animal Health
It’s been a little bit of time since we provided an update on the RHDV2 virus and, fortunately, that’s because honestly there just hasn’t been a lot to talk about. That’s certainly been a very good thing. I know myself and many others in the veterinary community have been pleasantly surprised that the virus hasn’t spread any quicker.
With that being said, there are a few new reported cases that we wanted to share with you. Early in May, we saw a very small outbreak in South Dakota, followed by another small outbreak in Georgia. Thankfully, both of those outbreaks were small. They were quarantined and didn’t turn into bigger issues. Since then, we have unfortunately seen the loss of over 20 rabbits in Mississippi and, just in the last week or so, there was the report of two domestic rabbits that were lost in Minnesota.
As we’ve seen this virus do on multiple other occasions, it’s very capable of making these large geographical jumps. Now, as we’ve talked about before, there are some unique characteristics of this virus that likely allow it to do that. As a non-enveloped virus, it is a very durable virus. It’s very able to survive harsh environmental conditions. That gives us likely higher survivability and a better chance of moving from state to state as we see vectors transmitted (such as animals, birds of prey, fomites (e.g. inanimate objects) and, unfortunately, probably the most likely cause of this virus moving around: us as human beings.
This should all be a very good reminder to all of us that now is not the time to let down our guard. We need to continue to be smart about our animals, understand where the virus is in association to where we live, and make smart decisions if and when we move our animals or if we expose them to animals whose backgrounds we don’t know.
One of the things that I think is really important to remember is we know in the Western states where the virus has been for well over a year now, state and local federal governments are not doing as much testing as they were before. We do not want that to give us a false sense of security. The virus is still there. The virus is still very much a threat, not only to our domestic pets, but to the wild population of rabbits as well.
Lastly, I did also want to mention a little bit of good news that hopefully many of you have already heard. Medgene (a South Dakota-based company) was recently granted emergency use authorization by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. Medgene has produced a killed recombinant vaccine for RHDV2, and it’ll be very interesting to see what the future holds and how soon that vaccine may be available.
If that’s something that you’re interested in, please speak with your veterinarian. And in the meantime, take care, continue to take the precautions we’ve talked about, and we’ll certainly update you as more information becomes available.