Rare rabbit disease confirmed in western Pennsylvania

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Jefferson County, Pa., map
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a rapidly lethal infectious viral disease of wild and domestic rabbits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed rabbit hemorrhagic disease in two pet rabbits that died Dec. 7 in Clover Township, Jefferson County.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture received notice Dec. 12 from USDA confirming rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) in two pet rabbits that died Dec. 7 in Clover Township, Jefferson County.

The site is under quarantine, and is being cleaned and disinfected.

The disease poses no risk to human health, or to animals other than rabbits.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease causes sudden death in rabbits that have previously exhibited no signs of disease. It is a viral disease that may spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or fur, or materials they have touched.

The virus has two strains. This strain, RHD1, has not been found in Pennsylvania before, and is not known to affect wild rabbits. There is no vaccine available in the U.S.

A strain of the virus, RHDV2, known to affect wild and domestic rabbits was confirmed in Ohio in September 2018.

Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who suspect RHD cases should immediately contact the department’s Bureau of Animal Health at 717-787-4250.

Prevent the spread

To prevent the spread of RHD, pet owners and others should take the following precautions:

  • In or around Jefferson County, do not touch any dead wild rabbits you may see. If you see more than one dead wild rabbit, contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 787-4250, or call the regional office serving your area.
  • Do not release domestic rabbits into the wild.
  • If your rabbits appear ill or die suddenly, contact your veterinarian.
  • Anyone working with rabbits should practice good biosecurity. This includes washing hands before and after working with rabbits and not sharing equipment with other owners.

Learn more about the department’s efforts to safeguard animal health at agriculture.pa.gov.

 

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