Vaccine for rabbit disease now available

Michelle Mielke
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK – The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health, in consultation with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s animal health division, has authorized veterinarians to offer the Medgene Labs vaccine for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2). While there are no reported cases in North Dakota, RHDV2 has been confirmed in neighboring states.

“We feel it is important to give veterinarians and rabbit owners a preventative option, rather than wait for the virus to arrive in our state,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “RHDV2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease in both domestic and wild rabbits.”

Vaccines for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) are available to some veterinarians for use on domestic rabbits, but are seldom used on wild rabbits like this one.

“The vaccine has been released with emergency use authorization by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics and will be available for purchase from Medgene this week by licensed North Dakota veterinarians,” State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress said. “Rabbit owners should contact their veterinarians for more information.”

Veterinarians may order the vaccine by contacting Medgene Labs at 605-697-2600 and must maintain appropriate records. Any adverse reactions should be reported to Medgene Labs.

“Many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding,” Dr. Andress said. “Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous system signs.”

RHDV2 can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can also survive and spread from carcasses, food, water and any contaminated materials. People may spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes. There is no known risk to humans.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus is highly contagious and can jump between wild and domestic populations.

Rabbit owners are urged to always practice good biosecurity to keep their animals healthy, such as preventing contact with other rabbits, ensuring visitors wear protective clothing near their rabbits, washing hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit’s area, sanitizing equipment and cages moved on or off premises etc. More biosecurity recommendations may be found at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/fs-rhdv2.pdf.

To learn more about the emergency use authorization for Medgene Labs, visit https://medgenelabs.com/rhdv2-vaccine/.