Become a Candidate for the WSVMA Board of Directors
Nominations Close May 15th
Join the Board of Directors

State Veterinarian confirms Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in Island County

June 30, 2023

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) state veterinarian’s office has confirmed the presence of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV2), in rabbits in Island County. RHDV2 is a highly contagious, fatal disease of rabbits.

Last Friday, WSDA was called to investigate a multiple mortality event and collected the rabbits for testing. The results returned positive for RHDV2. The premises is under quarantine and has implemented biosecurity measures.

In 2019, RHDV2 killed hundreds of feral domestic and domestic rabbits in Island and Clallam counties. Before then, the disease was designated as a foreign animal disease (FAD). If FADs are detected, there are a number of restrictions and emergency rules put into effect. Because of that outbreak, the virus is now considered stable-endemic, which means it already exists in the environment.

Because the disease now exists generally in the environment, there won’t be any additional restrictions or rules set into place with this detection.

Late in 2022 the State Vet’s office authorized emergency use of a vaccine for RHDV2, which is now available to all Washington veterinarians. The vaccine has been shown to be protective against RHDV2. Veterinarians who would like to order the vaccine should contact Medgene labs directly at (605) 697-2600.

State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle is calling on rabbit owners to ask their veterinarians about the vaccine and to have their rabbits vaccinated as soon as possible. Due to the contagious and extremely infectious nature of this virus, vaccination is critical for disease control to protect domestic and wild rabbit populations alike.  

Dr. Itle reminds rabbit owners to observe good biosecurity practices, isolate new additions to a colony for three weeks, and avoid contact of domestic and wild rabbits. If an owned rabbit dies and RHD could be the cause, double bag the body in plastic bags and refrigerate it until given more instructions, but do not freeze it.

For more information on RHDV2, biosecurity, and prevention, visit WSDA’s Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease webpage.