Rabbit hemorrhagic disease detected in multiple states

Dr. Susan Kelleher vaccinates a rabbit against rabbit hemorrhagic disease, Jan. 18, 2022
Posted at 11:18 AM, Jan 18, 2022

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (WPTV) — A South Florida veterinarian distributed vaccines Tuesday to help prevent the spread of a deadly virus affecting rabbits.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) is a virus impacting bunnies in multiple states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming.

It's believed to have originated in Europe.

RHDV2 does not impact human health, but about 80 percent of rabbits that contract the virus don't survive.

Dr. Susan Kelleher of Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital in Broward County held the vaccine event Tuesday for rabbit owners. More than 40 rabbits got the shot, including six owned by Jasmin Springer.

"My rabbits are Cinnabon and Bonbon. They are a pair. And then there's Mello and Snowflake and they are a pair. And then there's Strudel and Zera," Springer said.

Springer said she wants to make sure her beloved pets are protected.

"It's very contagious, and even if you keep your rabbits inside like I do, it's so contagious that you can walk on the bacteria of the disease and bring it inside your house," Springer said.

Kelleher said vaccinating rabbits against the deadly virus is important.

"They die suddenly from a high fever and bleeding from the nose and mouth. We were able to get special permitting for the vaccine," Kelleher said.

The virus has quickly spread across the U.S. in a short period of time.

"The fact that it has gone all the way across the United States in two years demonstrates how contagious that is," Kelleher said.

Kelleher has advice for rabbit owners.

"Our recommendation is that the rabbits are not allowed to play outside in the yard. Don't bring any new rabbits into the home, be careful with movements of rabbits into other states," Kelleher said.

This story was originally reported by Tania Rogers and Scott Sutton on