The novel coronavirus causing a global pandemic of covid-19 isn’t the only coronavirus causing an outbreak this year. A coronavirus called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) has been sweeping through many western states, including New Mexico, killing domestic and wild rabbits and jackrabbits. While this virus fortunately does not affect species other than rabbits, it is still a concern as the various species of lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas) play important roles in our ecosystems and as beloved pets.
This virus is highly fatal and most rabbits that are infected do not survive. The virus can be transmitted by direct contact among animals and by contact with droppings, shared food sources, contaminated vegetation, and possibly insects. Nearly all bodily secretions of infected rabbits contain virus and are likely infectious. The virus was first discovered in Asia, where it killed millions of domestic rabbits. Until recently, it had not been present in North America. While multiple safe and effective vaccines are used in Europe and Asia, the FDA has never approved a vaccine for use here because the virus was not in the US.
Luckily for our domestic rabbits, there is now emergency approval for a vaccine, and Dr. Zimmerman, our state veterinarian, has made several doses available to selected veterinary clinics. Acequia is one of those clinics, and if you have a bunny that spends any time outdoors, it is essential to get him or her vaccinated for this lethal virus. For those rabbits that live entirely indoors, the risk is lower, but it is still possible for virus to be accidentally brought inside via shoes or vegetation. If you are interested in protecting your rabbit from this disease, please call us and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
More information on RHDV-2 can be found at the following websites: