COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – According to the Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center in Columbia, rabbits from a Greenville County homestead have tested positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease for the first time in South Carolina.

The surviving rabbits at the location have been quarantined and animal health authorities have asked the owners to keep the rabbits in hutches to avoid further disease spread and to prevent further contact with wild rabbits.

“RHDV2’s mortality rate is 70 percent or higher. Our goal at this point is to do what 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 Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health.

The virus is highly contagious and affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits and hares.

The virus is transmissible through direct contact with an infected rabbit or through contact with bedding, water, feed, hay, and other materials used in the care and feeding of rabbits. It can also be spread by insect and human contact.

Clinical signs of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs and bloodstained noses or mouths.

The virus does not impact human health but has a high fatality rate among domestic and wild rabbits.

The USDA recommends the following practices to protect your pet or wild rabbits:

  • Do not allow pets or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or gain entry to the facility or home.
  • Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering and gloves).
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or untrusted 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 separated from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry. It is recommended to disinfect with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water (follow cleaning label instructions).
  • Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment practices (biosecurity) to decrease risk to healthy rabbits.

Rabbit owners are encouraged to discuss vaccination options with their veterinarians.

If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, please contact your veterinarian.