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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD)


Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Alert

December 7, 2020 Update – New Cases of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Confirmed in Domestic Rabbits

Disease has now been detected in domestic rabbits in four Southern California counties:
Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino

CDFA taking limited regulatory action

SACRAMENTO, December 7, 2020 - Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV2) was confirmed in domestic rabbits at backyard properties in Kern County on December 7, in Riverside County on November 19, in Los Angeles County on November 20, 2020 and at three backyard properties in San Bernardino County in July and September 2020.

RHDV2 is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease of rabbits. Morbidity and mortality rates are high in unvaccinated animals; in some groups of infected rabbits, most or all may die. The disease has been known to cause dramatic declines in some wild rabbit populations.

The disease has been detected in wild rabbits in several southwestern states including California, so CDFA considers the disease endemic to these areas, triggering limited regulatory action when domestic rabbits become infected. CDFA continues to focus on assisting owners to protect their animals rather than completely eliminating the disease from the State. Test-positive domestic rabbits are placed under quarantine and owners are provided information on how best to reduce spread of the virus. Restrictions on rabbits moving into California are also in affect.

Rabbit owners are urged to protect their animals by preventing contact with wild rabbits, and keeping domestic rabbits indoors in areas with known disease, if possible. They are also asked to practice biosecurity to prevent accidentally spreading the RHDV2 virus home to their rabbits. It should be noted that that apparently healthy rabbits are capable of spreading the disease, so rabbit owners should avoid direct or indirect contact between their animals and other rabbits.

There is no licensed RHDV2 vaccine approved for use in the United States; however, CDFA is allowing California licensed veterinarians to import European vaccine to protect against RHDV2. Veterinarians may send an email to AHBFeedback@cdfa.ca.gov to receive an approval letter and instructions on how to apply for a USDA import permit.

Please report dead domestic rabbits to CDFA at 909-947-4462, and consult a veterinarian if a domestic rabbit is sick. Report dead wild rabbits to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife at 916-358-2790.

Movement Restrictions for Rabbits and Hares Entering California

Due to the ongoing outbreak of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in the U.S., California has implemented a statewide quarantine with movement restrictions for rabbits and hares entering California.

No rabbits, hares, or their products (meat, pelts, hides, carcasses, etc.) and equipment or other items or associated materials may enter California from states or countries where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) has been diagnosed in the prior 12 months unless they meet the following requirements.

  1. All live rabbits and hares require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, and must be inspected by an accredited veterinarian within 72 hours prior to shipping to California. The CVI must include a statement by an accredited veterinarian certifying that:
    • All rabbits and hares in the shipment have been examined for and found free of communicable diseases, and
    • All rabbits and hares have originated from a single premises that has no signs of a communicable disease, and
    • There have been no movements of rabbits and hares onto the premises over the prior 30-days, and
    • The animals have had no contact with wild rabbits or hares in the past 30 days.
  2. No rabbits and hares or rabbit and hare products (meat, pelts, hides, carcasses, etc.) and equipment or other items or associated materials may enter California from a premises known to be affected with RHD.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease of domesticated and wild rabbits. Morbidity and mortality rates are high in unvaccinated animals; on some farms, most or all the rabbits may die. This disease has also caused dramatic declines in some wild rabbit populations, particularly when it was first introduced.

RHD virus (RHDV) was first seen in China in 1984, and since there have been confirmed cases in 40 countries, including in Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, Israel, the UK, Mexico, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. RHDV2, a second strain, emerged in France in 2010, and quickly spread in Europe and the Mediterranean, and has replaced the original strain in many countries. In 2015, RHDV2 was first detected in Australia, and it spread coast-to-coast in the rabbit population in 18 months and became the dominant strain replacing RHDV1.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth, or rectum
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden death*

*Rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all.

Field Contacts

To report sick/dead domestic rabbits:
CDFA Modesto District
(209) 491-9350
CDFA Ontario District
(909) 947-5932
CDFA Redding District
(530) 225-2140
CDFA Tulare District
(559) 685-3500
To report sick/dead wild rabbits:
CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife - Wildlife Investigations Lab
(916) 358-2790

Contact Us

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Animal Health and Food Safety Services,
Animal Health Branch
1220 N Street
Sacramento, California 95814

  916-900-5002   Fax: 916-900-5333   ahbfeedback@cdfa.ca.gov