The first virulent strain of rabbit hemorrhagic fever appears in Iowa

Iowa has detected its first outbreak of a deadly disease that infects rabbits and for which there is no vaccine or known cure, the Iowa Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

A press release from the ministry said Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2, referred to as RHDV2, had been confirmed in Story County. He didn’t say where, but department spokesman Don McDowell said the rabbits were domestic and not part of a commercial herd.

The press release states that none of the affected rabbits have recently traveled to exhibits or fairs.

Although fatal to rabbits, the disease does not affect humans or livestock, the department and the American Veterinary Medical Association said.

According to Cornell Wildlife Health Lab at Cornell University, the disease was first detected in 1984 in European domestic rabbits imported from Germany and China. RHDV2, a new strain, was first detected in France in 2010, the lab said. It is much more infectious to wild rabbit species in North America, where it was first detected in 2020, the veterinary association said.

The Cornell lab said there was an outbreak of RHDV2 in domestic and wild rabbits in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah and Mexico.

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In its most acute form, the disease can kill rabbits within 12 to 36 hours of the onset of symptoms, which may include bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum, fever and difficulty breathing, a said the veterinary association.

The Department of Agriculture has requested that any rabbit owner who detects a suspected infection contact a veterinarian, and that veterinarians who encounter suspected cases contact the department.

Iowa in 2022 also experienced an outbreak of avian flu. The state is the national leader in egg production, and the outbreak has led to the destruction of millions of chickens and tens of thousands of commercial turkeys.