‘Highly contagious, fatal’ rabbit hemorrhagic disease detected in King County

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) state veterinarian’s office announced Wednesday that a highly contagious, fatal rabbit disease known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) had been confirmed in a King County rabbit.

The rabbit lived exclusively indoors and was tested by a private veterinarian after sudden deaths were reported.

The area where the rabbit lives is under quarantine and has implemented biosecurity measures.

In 2019, RHDV2 killed hundreds of rabbits in Island and Clallam counties. Before that point, the disease was considered a foreign animal disease (FAD).

According to WSDA, Once FADs are detected, restrictions and emergency rules are put into effect. Since the outbreak in 2019, the disease has been considered stable-endemic, meaning it already exists in the environment.

In late 2021, the state veterinarian’s office authorized the emergency use of a vaccine against RHDV2, which is available to all Washington veterinarians.

The vaccine has been shown to be effective in protecting against RHDV2 and must be administered by a Washington-licensed veterinarian.

State veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle urged rabbit owners to ask their veterinarians about the vaccine and to vaccinate their rabbits as soon as possible.

“Remember to observe good biosecurity practices in addition to vaccinating your bunnies,” Itle said. “Be sure to isolate new additions for three weeks before commingling them with your colony and avoid contact with domestic and wild rabbits.”