Prevent rabbit hemorrhagic disease


Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a fatal virus that affects rabbits and hares. A new strain, RHDV2, was identified in 2010. In 2020, RHDV2 jumped to wild rabbits and hares in the southwestern U.S., where it spread to six states within four months. The virus can infect wild rabbits and hares in addition to domestic rabbits. RHDV2 is extremely hardy, easily transmitted, and highly lethal to rabbits and hares. It does not infect humans or other animals like dogs or cats. RHDV2 spreads easily through direct contact between rabbits or contact with contaminated environments or objects. The most likely routes of introduction to New York are through transported domestic rabbits, internationally imported rabbit products, or people who travel to outbreak areas in the Southwest. Ways to help stop the spread:

• If you keep domestic rabbits, prevent intermingling with other rabbits. If you get new rabbits, quarantine them for two weeks and use separate equipment and clothing to care for them.

• If you come across a rabbit nest in your yard, do not touch the rabbits. Replace any removed vegetation and avoid the area. The mother typically will only return to the nest once or twice overnight, so nests can seem abandoned when in reality they are being tended to. Remember: if you care, leave them there!

• If you are a wildlife rehabilitator who cares for wild rabbits, do not keep domestic rabbits as pets or have contact with domestic rabbits; maintain good disinfection techniques and change PPE between rabbit litters or individual rabbits.

• If you are a rabbit or hare hunter, avoid contact with domestic rabbits, and do not bring rabbit carcasses killed in other states to New York.

• If you are a hiker, camper, or traveler, and you have been to known RHDV2 outbreak areas, disinfect footwear with a 10 percent bleach solution (one part household bleach, nine parts water) before going afield in New York.

Report any unusual wild rabbit mortalities you encounter to the DEC Wildlife Health Unit at 518-478-2203.