Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) outbreak in British Columbia (2019)
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), also known as viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits, has recently been reported in British Columbia (B.C.). RHD is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease that affects most domestic rabbit breeds. In some areas of coastal B.C., feral populations of domestic rabbits have become established and are involved in the outbreak of the virus. Native wild rabbits are generally resistant to infection unless they are cross-bred with domestic rabbits.
Information on RHD including clinical signs, how it is spread and how to protect your rabbits can be found in the rabbit haemorrhagic disease fact sheet.
RHD should be suspected in rabbits with sudden and unexplained illness and death, especially if multiple rabbits are involved or if bleeding is seen. Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect RHD. In Canada, RHD is an immediately notifiable disease under the Health of Animals Regulations. Laboratories are required to contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for possible or confirmed cases of this disease.
The CFIA is supporting the Province of British Columbia where possible, including offering diagnostic (testing) support.
The best way to prevent RHD is to practice good biosecurity, including the following:
- practice specific rabbit biosecurity protocols;
- wash hands, clothing, cages and equipment between rabbits from different sources
- quarantine new rabbits away from existing ones
- avoid contact with wild/feral rabbits or locations where wild/feral rabbits are present
- keep pet rabbits inside to avoid exposure to environments potentially contaminated by wild or feral rabbits or by people, vehicles, etc. that can spread the disease.
- consider vaccination to prevent disease
For information on how to get your pet rabbit(s) vaccinated, please contact your local veterinarian. For more information on RHD, please contact your local veterinarian or the following resources:
- Province of BC - Rabbit virus found for second straight year
- BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) website for current updates on the RHD outbreak in BC
- BC SPCA RHD Information Sheet for Rabbit Guardians - PDF (405 kb)
- BC SPCA RHD Information Sheet for Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries - PDF (862 kb)
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