Friday, August 23, 2019

Deadly rabbit disease persists and spreads in San Juan Islands.

Chris McGann

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is spreading in the San Juan
State and federal labs have confirmed another occurrence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2
(RHDV2) in domestic rabbits in the San Juan Islands, this time on San Juan Island near Friday Harbor.

The findings are part of the ongoing investigation into confirmed RHDV2 cases on the Orcas Island last month.

RHD is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits and can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or their fur, or materials coming in contact with them. It poses no human health risk.

The San Juan Island case involved 2 domestic rabbits near Friday Harbor that that died suddenly. The owner reported the suspected case directly to the State Veterinarian and submitted the dead rabbit for testing. The rabbits had direct contact with feral rabbits.

The disease has also been confirmed in the feral populations on the Islands.

Although this most recent case is still isolated in the San Juan Islands, the fact that it occurred on a different island than the original outbreak shows that it can spread in spite of geographical barriers.

“We believe it is still isolated to the islands,” said Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle. “Anyone who visits the islands should observe strict bio security especially if they have rabbits at home.  We strongly recommend no movement of any domestic or feral rabbits from the San Juan County to prevent spread to the mainland.”   

WSDA vets are also investigating reported die offs in a domestic colony on Orcas Island and feral rabbits on Lopez Island.

Rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians. If a case is suspected, veterinarians should contact APHIS or send an email to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office.

For more information, fact sheets are available from the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University.