Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2

Cute rabbit

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious virus that only infects rabbits. Both domestic and wild rabbits can be infected. It can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit or through the environment. RHDV2 does not impact human health.

The virus is hardy and can live outside for months. Strong chemicals, like bleach, will kill the virus in the environment. It is generally fatal within days of catching the disease, and lethargy and bleeding from the nose are the most common clinical signs.

In late September 2021, two owned rabbits in Ramsey County died suddenly and tested positive for this disease. No other diagnoses have been made thus far in the state of Minnesota.

Experts in animal welfare have been watching this virus closely since it was first diagnosed in the United States in 2018. Though it was primarily found in the Southwest, it has continued to spread through the wild rabbit population and with rabbit owners moving cross-country. It's important that every rabbits get vaccinated for RHDV2. While the risk of your rabbit catching this disease is low, the disease is life-threatening, causing the veterinarian community to take it very seriously. 

Frequently asked questions about RHDV2

    What signs should I look for?

    The time from infection to first signs may be as long as nine days. Infected rabbits may appear dull and be reluctant to eat; have congested membranes around the eyes; show signs of nervousness, incoordination or excitement; experience seizures; and/or make paddling movements. They may also have trouble breathing.

    ​​​​​​​How does RHDV2 spread?

    The RHDV2 virus is very resistant to extreme temperatures. It can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can also survive and spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes.

    How is Animal Humane Society responding?

    AHS is instituting a vaccination and mandatory quarantine policy for all rabbits in our care. This will not only protect them, but other rabbits they may come in contact with. Once the rabbit has finished their quarantine, they will move through our shelters normally and when ready, be placed on the adoption floor.

    We also offer the vaccination through our Veterinary Centers, however, our appointment availability is limited and access to our services is based on income eligibility.

    I have rabbits at home. Is there anything I should I do?

    Limit your rabbit's exposure to other rabbits and where other rabbits (including wild) have been. On October 1, 2021, the Board of Animal Health approved a vaccine for use against this disease. Reach out to your veterinarian to determine if vaccination would be appropriate. If your rabbit becomes ill, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

    What should I do if I find a dead rabbit in my yard?

    Surveillance is important for us to learn more about the spread of this disease, and how it spreads through the wild rabbit population. If there appears to be multiple rabbit deaths without an obvious cause (like prey or roadkill), please contact the DNR

    Additional resources