Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Confirmed in Six Colorado Counties

June 9, 2020
Contact:  Mary Peck, 720-428-0441, mary.peck@state.co.us

Broomfield, Colo. -  The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has confirmed new cases of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) in domestic rabbits in Weld County, adding to cases previously reported in El Paso and Montezuma Counties. Additionally, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has verified cases of RHDV2 in wild and feral rabbits in Alamosa, El Paso, Prowers, and Pueblo counties.  
A current map of confirmed cases in Colorado is available on CDA’s Animal Health Division RHDV2 webpage.  Current CDA guidance on rabbit shows and fairs can be found here.  
With incidents of RHDV2 increasing in Colorado and western states, CDA and CPW are asking the public to watch for multiple dead or sick rabbits, which can suggest RHDV2 or a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in people. Do not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife and do not allow pets to contact or consume wildlife carcasses. 

Reporting Suspected cases:
Domestic:  Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130.  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 your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.  
RHDV2 Background:
RHDV2 is highly contagious and lethal among rabbits. It does not affect humans or domestic species other than rabbits and is not related to COVID-19. RHDV-2 is considered a foreign animal disease and is of high concern at the state and federal levels.  
Colorado’s first case of RHDV2 was confirmed in Alamosa County on April 17, 2020. RHDV2 cases have also been reported in both domestic and wild rabbits in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.  
Vaccines are only available in Colorado through private practicing veterinarians who have applied for and been granted permission by the USDA to import and distribute the vaccine.  Veterinarians interested in importing the RHDV2 vaccine should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130. 

Guidelines for Domestic Rabbits:  
  • Rabbit owners should exercise extreme caution and biosecurity to avoid accidental exposure of domestic rabbits through contaminated feed, bedding, equipment, or clothing that may have come in contact from infected wild rabbits or birds that could transfer the virus from infected wild rabbits.
  • Domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in wild rabbits.
  • Rabbit owners who have questions about the disease should contact their veterinarian.
  • Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130.  

Guidelines for Wild Cottontails, Hares, and Pika:
  • Please report any sick/dead wild rabbits, hares or pika to your local CPW office.
  • Do not handle rabbits or rodents that have been found dead. 
  • Do not allow pets or scavengers to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets other than domestic rabbits, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.
  • Do not handle or consume rabbits or other game animals that appear to be sick. Instead, report these cases to the nearest CPW office.
  • Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.
Helpful Links on RHDV-2:
The Colorado Department of Agriculture exists to support the state's agriculture industry and serve the people of Colorado through regulation, advocacy and education. Our mission is to strengthen and advance Colorado agriculture, promote a safe and high-quality food supply, protect consumers, and foster responsible stewardship of the environment and natural resources.