No new cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, says small game biologist – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper
STARKVILLE – Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Small game biologist Rick Hamrick has confirmed that there are no new cases of a new strain of rabbit disease in Mississippi called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2, or RHDV2 since the state’s first positive result in October 2021. virus had infected approximately 20 domestic rabbits in Rankin County.
RHDV2 is a new strain of RHD. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a disease caused by a virus of the calicivirus family.
Until 2018, this disease was only detected in European rabbits before being detected in Canada. By 2020, the disease had spread west to New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and California. He said it’s safe to assume that RHDV2 could spread to native species of wild eastern rabbits and swamp rabbits.
According to the MDWFP website, the disease enters a rabbit’s body through the mouth, nose, or eyes. The virus persists for a very long time in the environment and is resistant to deactivation.
The virus is spread by direct contact with live or dead infected rabbits. Humans, pets and livestock are not susceptible to the disease. Humans can spread the disease with rabbit fur on their clothes. It could be spread through rabbit urine or feces in the bedding of domestic rabbits, Hamrick said.
RHD has a mortality rate of 20 percent, on average. In localized environments, the mortality rate varies from 5 to 70%. In this case, 21 out of 22 rabbits died within 6-8 days. There is a vaccine that has received emergency clearance, Hamrick said.
“There is still no cure or treatment once a rabbit is infected. A vaccine has received emergency clearance that can be used to protect domestic rabbits,” Hamrick said. “Medgene Labs based in Brookings, SD received emergency use authorization from the USDA for its RHDV2 vaccine. Rabbit owners should contact their veterinarian to determine how it might be obtained and administered, and supplies are likely limited.
People can call (601) 359-1170 if they have questions. Currently, there is no evidence of the disease in wild rabbit populations in Mississippi.
Proper disposal of rabbits harvested during the hunt would involve training the animal in the field. If you’re removing the animal from its home range, it’s best to place the remains in a trash bag so they can be buried in a landfill rather than dumping them in the woods, he said.
“There is no way to effectively vaccinate wild rabbits, so we need to practice good sanitation and biosecurity with domestic rabbits and do everything we can to prevent the spread of disease,” Hamrick said.
Some of these good sanitation and biosecurity practices include:
- Do not let pet or wild rabbits come into contact with your rabbits
- Do not allow visitors to enter hutches or handle pet rabbits without protective clothing
- Always wash your hands with soap and water
- Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or unreliable sources
- If you bring rabbits from outside into your home, keep them quarantined for at least 30 days
- Disinfect all equipment and cages
- Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review biosecurity practices
- If you live nearby or visit an area where the disease is confirmed, do not touch any dead rabbits.
- If you see several dead rabbits, contact the MDWFP
- If you have pet rabbits, do not release them into the wild
People should contact Rick Hamrick by email at [email protected] or the MDWFP at 601-432-2199 if they find large numbers of dead wild rabbits with no apparent signs of death. Those with domesticated rabbits should contact the MBAH if they notice multiple domesticated rabbit deaths by calling 1-888-722-3106.