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Rabbits testing for fatal virus

Staff Reports

A fatal disease has resulted in the quarantine of a Las Vegas household, but not as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

A report of sudden death in domestic rabbits was confirmed to be a case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2, the Nevada Department of Agriculture reported on Monday.

The state received a report of sudden deaths in domestic rabbits in Las Vegas, On April 30 it was confirmed.

“RHDV2 is a non-zoonotic viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits,” said NDA interim state veterinarian Dr. David Thain. “While it is not harmful to humans, it can spread quickly among rabbits and we have gotten reports of cases in nearby states recently.”

On March 25, the Nevada Animal Disease Lab received information from the New Mexico state veterinarian confirming a case of RHDV2 in a domestic rabbit in New Mexico. On April 2, they also found the virus in a wild black-tailed jackrabbit and several wild cottontails, representing the first detection of this virus in wild rabbits in the U.S.

Since then, cases have also been confirmed in Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

The virus can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or their fur, or other materials such as a handler’s clothing or shoes. While early detection is difficult, some infected rabbits may develop a fever, loss of appetite, or show respiratory issues. Good biosecurity can help mitigate the spread. Recommended biosecurity practices include:

■ Keep outside pet, feral or wild rabbits separated from your existing rabbits.

■ 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.

■ Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.

■ Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering, and gloves).