Sudden death of wild rabbits

                The sudden death of wild rabbits in Greenville has prompted a warning from health officials.  The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center said the dead animals were tested in Columbia and diagnosed with rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2).  The diagnosis was confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA-APHIS).  This is the first time RHDV2 has been detected in South Carolina, according to the center.  Officials say the surviving rabbits at the site have been quarantined and animal health authorities have asked owners to contain them in hutches to prevent further spread and avoid further contact with wild rabbits.  "The mortality rate for RHDV2 is 70% or more. Our goal at this point is to do everything we can to prevent the virus from spreading into the wild rabbit population and potentially further infecting domesticated rabbits." , said Michael Neault, state veterinarian and director of Poultry Health at Clemson University (LPH).  Clinical signs.  of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and bloody nose or mouth.  RHDV2 is a highly contagious Calicivirus that affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits, and hares.  The virus is transmitted by infected rabbits and is spread through direct contact, bedding, water, feed, hay and other materials used in the care and feeding of rabbits.  It can also be spread by insects and human contact.  Neault says that while RHDV2 does not affect human health, it has a high mortality rate among domestic and wild rabbits and has become endemic in the western United States.  There is no live test for RHDV2.  the introduction of RHDV2 into wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States.  It's important that we do what we can to prevent contact between infected wild rabbits and wild rabbits," said Will Dillman, deputy wildlife chief for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The USDA recommends the following biosecurity practices: do not allow pets. rabbits or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or access the facility or house. Do not allow visitors to reach rabbits or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including overalls, blankets shoes, hair coverings, and gloves.) Always wash your hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area. Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or trusted sources Do not add rabbits to your rabbitry from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations If you bring rabbits from outside into your facility or home, keep them separate  plow your existing rabbits for at least 30 days.  Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to prevent the spread of disease.  Sanitize all equipment and cages that are moved in or out of the facility before returning them to the rabbit.  Disinfection with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water is recommended (follow cleaning instructions on label).  Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment (biosecurity) practices to reduce risk to healthy rabbits.  If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect RHDV2, contact your vet.
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                <strong class="dateline">CLEMSON, SC —</strong>                                             <p>The sudden death of wild rabbits in Greenville has prompted a warning from health officials. 

The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center said the dead animals were tested in Columbia and diagnosed with rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2).

The diagnosis was confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA-APHIS).

This is the first time RHDV2 has been detected in South Carolina, according to the center.

Authorities say the surviving rabbits at the site have been quarantined and animal health officials have asked owners to contain them in hutches to prevent further spread and avoid further contact with wild rabbits.

“The fatality rate of RHDV2 is 70% or more. Our goal at this time is to do everything we can to prevent the virus from spreading to the wild rabbit population and potentially further infecting domesticated rabbits,” said Michael Neault, state veterinarian and director of Health for the Clemson University Bird (LPH).

Clinical signs of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and bloody nose or mouth.

RHDV2 is a highly contagious Calicivirus that affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits, and hares. The virus is transmitted by infected rabbits and is spread through direct contact, bedding, water, feed, hay and other materials used in the care and feeding of rabbits. It can also be spread by insects and human contact.

Neault says that although RHDV2 does not affect human health, it has a high mortality rate among domestic and wild rabbits and has become endemic in the western United States. There is no live test for RHDV2.

“The introduction of RHDV2 into wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do what we can to prevent contact between wild rabbits infected and feral rabbits,” said Will Dillman, assistant director of wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

USDA recommends the following biosecurity practices:

  • Do not allow pet rabbits or feral rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or enter the facility or home.
  • Do not allow visitors to approach rabbits or allow them to handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair coverings and gloves).
  • Always wash your hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit area, after removing protective clothing, and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or trusted sources. Do not add rabbits to your rabbitry from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations.
  • If you bring outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separate from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages that are moved in or out of the facility before returning them to the rabbit. Disinfection with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water is recommended (follow cleaning instructions on label).
  • Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment (biosecurity) practices to reduce risk to healthy rabbits.

If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect RHDV2, contact your vet.

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