According to a report posted by the Iowa DNR, Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is highly contagious and can be spread from rabbit to rabbit, by predators, insects, and even humans. While the virus is not currently in Iowa, it has been confirmed in domestic rabbits near us in Minnesota and South Dakota.

The disease, known as RHDV2, and was first detected in Europe in 2010. In 2020, it was found in the United States.

The disease is fatal for rabbits but does NOT impact humans. However, people can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs.

APHIS says to protect your rabbits:

• Do not allow pet or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or gain entry to the facility or home.
• Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering, and gloves).
• Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area.
• If you bring outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separated from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
• Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off-premises before they are returned to the rabbitry. Recommendation: disinfecting with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water.

Iowa’s eastern cottontail population is expected to survive the disease if it becomes prevalent in the state, but there is some concern regarding Iowa’s declining jackrabbit population, which is located only in certain parts of the state, mainly north of Interstate 80.

A vaccine is now available for emergency use through a licensed veterinarian to protect domestic rabbits. Iowans can learn more by clicking HERE.

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