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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Cause for Rabbit Mortality

SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Department) and the New Mexico Livestock Board report that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) is the cause for recent rabbit deaths in both wild jackrabbit and cottontail populations as well as in domestic rabbit production facilities. RHDV-2 is highly contagious among rabbits; however, it is not known to be transmissible to humans or pets. RHDV-2 is from a different viral family from the corona virus and is not related to COVID-19.

The Department collected carcasses for testing after reports of dead wild rabbits in early March. Mortalities in domestic rabbits also resulted in testing during this time. Tests for both domestic rabbits and wild jackrabbits and cottontails were positive for RHDV- 2. Currently, mortalities in wild populations have only been reported in southern and eastern New Mexico. RHDV-2 is expected to spread and is transmitted among rabbits through direct contact, excrement, shared food sources and contaminated burrows.

Guidelines for Wild Jackrabbits and Cottontails:

Report large numbers of dead wild rabbits to your local Conservation Officer or the Department Information Center at (888) 248-6866.

Do not handle found rabbit or rodent carcasses. Carcasses may harbor pathogens and may be buried and moved with a shovel.

Do not allow pets to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.

Hunters should handle all harvested rabbits with caution. Wear gloves when field dressing and wash hands well afterward.

Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.

Guidelines for Domestic Rabbits:

Keep domestic rabbits isolated from wild rabbits.
Do not release domestic rabbits from pen facilities to live in colonies.
Consult your veterinarian if you experience sudden death among your rabbits.
Work with your veterinarian to decontaminate your rabbitry after a mortality event.
Helpful Links on RHDV-2:

https://www.nmlbonline.com/news
http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/rabbit_hemorrhagic_disease.pdf
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/fs-rhdv2.pdf