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Deadly rabbit disease confirmed in WashingtonDeadly rabbit disease confirmed in Washington

Second discovery of RHDV2 in the Evergreen State follows cases in Oregon.

August 15, 2022

2 Min Read

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) state veterinarian’s office confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) - a highly contagious and fatal disease - in two Thurston County rabbits from a single household last week.

This is the state's second confirmed detection of RHDV2 this year following a King County case in May. With two detections in two separate counties in Oregon last week as well, the state veterinarian says now is the time to increase biosecurity efforts.

“Stopping this disease from spreading starts with rabbit owners employing biosecurity measures such as eliminating contact with wild rabbits, isolating new rabbits from existing ones for 21 days, paying attention to where feed is sourced from, and keeping your rabbits housed off the ground or indoors,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, said. Although there are no specific restrictions for fairs,

Related: Dead rabbits in Oregon had RHDV2

Itle encourages all exhibitors to get their show rabbits vaccinated to reduce the risk of contracting and dying from this extremely contagious and fatal disease. “Please talk to your veterinarian about getting the vaccine for your rabbits.” 

Itle is the Chair of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials committee on RDHV2 and has led efforts to develop guidance documents and policy around response, biosecurity, prevention, and vaccine recommendations. 

If domestic rabbits contract the disease, the farm or household will be quarantined for 60 days to prevent transmission to other rabbits but restricting movement of rabbits in geographic areas will not be mandated. 


Late last year the state veterinarian’s office authorized the emergency use of a domestic vaccine for RHDV2, which is now available to all Washington veterinarians.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, Dr. Itle is calling all rabbit owners to contact their veterinarians to vaccinate their rabbits as soon as possible. Due to the extremely contagious and fatal nature of this virus, vaccination is critical for disease control to protect our domestic and native wild rabbit populations alike.   
Veterinarians can order the vaccine directly from Medgene labs at 605-697-2600.

RHDV2 history in Washington

In 2019, RHDV2 killed hundreds of domestic and feral domestic rabbits in Island and Clallam counties. The strain killed domestic rabbits only; native wild rabbits and hares were not vulnerable to it.   

Since the spring of 2020, 15 states have reported detections of a new southwest strain of RHDV2. This strain is fatal to both domestic and native wild rabbits, prompting animal experts at USDA to designate RHDV2 as “stable-endemic” - meaning it persists in wild rabbit populations, making it nearly impossible to eradicate.

For more information on RHDV2, biosecurity, and prevention, please visit WSDA’s Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease webpage.

There have also been two cases in Oregon.

Source: Washington State Department of Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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