Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2

In May 2023, a wild rabbit in Kearny County, Kansas, was confirmed for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus Type 2 (RHDV2). Last July Kansas had its first case of RHDV2 in a domestic rabbit from Leavenworth County. 

RHDV2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease that only affects rabbits; it does NOT impact human health. This is the first case of RHDV2 in wild rabbits in Kansas, although most states to the west of Kansas, including Colorado, have reported cases of RHDV2 in domestic rabbits, wild cottontails and jackrabbits in recent years.

RHDV2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease of domestic rabbits and wild rabbits of the genus Oryctolagus. This disease is considered a foreign animal disease (FAD) and is of high concern at the state and federal levels.

Clinical Signs

Many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and possibly blood stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs.

Due to the proximity and progression of RHDV2 cases in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Texas, veterinarians and rabbit owners should be aware of the disease risks at this time because of the highly contagious nature of this disease.

Also please be aware that the virus causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (a calicivirus) is NOT in any way related to the circulating novel coronavirus that primarily affects people.

Rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing your hands before and after working with rabbits and not sharing equipment with other owners. Rabbit owners should also avoid contact with wild or feral rabbits.

A RHDV-2 vaccine produced by Medgene Labs has been granted permission under emergency use authorization and is now available for use by licensed veterinarians in the state of Kansas.

Reporting of Rabbit Illnesses or Death

  • Owners:  Rabbit owners who have questions about the disease should contact their veterinarian. 
  • Veterinarians: Veterinarians must report suspected RHDV cases in domestic rabbits to the Division of Animal Health. Disease investigations will be completed by a Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician
  • Wildlife:  To report suspect cases (sick or dead wild rabbits, hares or pika), contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at 620-342-0658, Ext. 209.