Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture want to make Tennesseans aware of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2). In late January, RHDV2 was detected in two domestic rabbits in East Tennessee.
Although RHDV2 has not been found in Tennessee’s wild rabbit populations, the virus is of major concern as it is highly contagious and lethal to wild and domestic rabbits.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected rabbits or carcasses, meat or their fur, feces, bodily fluids, contaminated bedding materials, or other materials that have been contaminated. People can inadvertently spread the virus into new areas by moving infected live rabbits, carcasses, or parts from infected animals, as well as on clothing and shoes. The virus can persist in the environment for an extended time, which makes it difficult to control the disease once it affects wild rabbit populations.
People are asked to report rabbits that appear to be bleeding or sightings of multiple dead rabbits to a TWRA regional office. Visit www.tnwildlife.org for office information. Do not handle dead rabbits. Rabbits carry other diseases that can make people sick.
The USDA website has the most current map of outbreaks of RHDV2 at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/maps/animal-health/rhd. If persons travel to states that are currently experiencing die-offs and take part in outdoor activities, make sure to clean clothing and disinfect shoes before returning to Tennessee.
The following preventative measures are recommended for hunters and rabbit owners to limit exposure and spread of RHDV2:
Hunters & Falconers
*Avoid harvesting rabbits that appear sick.
*When processing rabbit wear disposable gloves.
*Disinfect equipment and wash hands.
*Prepare meat to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
*Bury rabbit remains to discourage scavenging.
*Keep rabbits indoors or keep rabbit enclosures raised and off the ground.
*Wash hands, clothes, and shoes before and after contact with domestic rabbits.
*Do not handle dead or wild rabbits.
*Quarantine new domestic rabbits for at least 30 days from other animals.
*Notify the State Veterinarian’s office if you experience sudden deaths or high mortality in your rabbitry at 615.837.5120 or .
A vaccine for RHDV2 to be used in domestic rabbits is now available in over 40 states including Tennessee. The vaccine was produced by Medgene Labs and was granted Emergency Use Authorization by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics in October of 2021.
The vaccine has been effective in preventing severe and fatal disease from RHDV2 infection in domestic rabbits but is meant as a supplement to the above preventative measures.
Please contact your local veterinarian. Veterinarians in Tennessee may contact Medgene labs, which will then distribute vaccines to licensed veterinarians with approval from the State Veterinarian.