At the direction of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) State Veterinarian’s office, the Missouri State Fair will not host rabbit shows at the State Fair this August due to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2).
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that affects both domestic and wild rabbits of all ages. This is a foreign animal disease (FAD) as recognized by the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and is of high concern in the United States. RHDV2 has been confirmed in Colorado, California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.
Often the only clinical sign of the disease is sudden death, possibly with blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Other signs include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, neurologic signs, and difficulty breathing. The incubation period for the disease is one to five days.
The virus is spread via direct contact with infected rabbits, as well as their meat or fur. The virus can also be spread indirectly through contact with an infected rabbit’s excretions, cages, bedding, feeders, equipment, etc. People can also serve as a fomite in the spread of the virus when handling an infected rabbit or their materials mentioned previously and then carrying the virus to a naïve rabbit. The virus can survive on an object for up to 105 days in dry, room temperatures.
The movement of live rabbits, such as for shows or fairs, presents a significant risk for the spread of the disease due to the commingling of rabbits. MDA recommends postponing or canceling rabbit shows until more is known about the distribution of the virus and/or until vaccination is available.
RHDV2 is not infectious to people or other domestic animals. However, rabbits can carry other diseases such as tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in people. Do not handle or consume sick or dead rabbits, and do not allow pets to come into contact with or consume rabbit carcasses.
The movement of live rabbits, especially for shows or fairs, presents a significant risk for the spread of the disease due to the commingling of rabbits. MDA recommends postponing or canceling rabbit shows until more is known about the distribution of the virus and/or until a vaccination is available. If local events take place, MDA recommends that event organizers consider extra precautionary measures to minimize the risk of transmission of RHDV2.
More information on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is available at Agriculture.Mo.Gov.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a reportable disease. If suspected, this disease should be immediately reported to the Missouri State Veterinarian’s office at (573) 751-3377, or the USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC) at (573) 658-9850.