Highly contagious rabbit disease detected in Minnesota

A highly contagious rabbit disease has been detected for the first time in Minnesota, killing two pet rabbits in Ramsey Country earlier this month.

The deadly disease is known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2), affecting all breeds of domestic and wild rabbits. There is no known risk to humans.

After the two indoor pet rabbits died suddenly and inexplicably, the owner turned to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to investigate the cause of death. It was confirmed to be RHDV2 last week. The owner reported that the infected rabbits, whose breeds were Lion Head and Holland Lop, had no contact with other rabbits.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the disease can spread through direct contact with infected rabbits or indirect contact with infected carcasses, blood, urine and feces. It can also be present on contaminated clothes and surfaces, staying resistant to extreme temperatures. The very persistent virus has been found to survive up to 15 weeks in dry conditions.

Minnesota licensed veterinarians can order the RHDV2 vaccine by contacting Medgene Labs. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health authorized the vaccine soon after the disease was detected.