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Deadly rabbit disease hitting southern Arizona

For the first time ever, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus was detected in rabbits in the PACC...
For the first time ever, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus was detected in rabbits in the PACC system.(Randy Metcalf | PACC)
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 11:23 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - According to PACC, a deadly rabbit disease has made its way to southern Arizona and they won’t be able to take in any more rabbits for a while.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, also known as RHDV2, been detected in rabbits in the PACC system for the first time ever.

PACC is urging owners of outdoor-housed rabbits to get them vaccinated

“This is the third year that the virus has been detected in southern Arizona, but it’s the first time rabbits coming through PACC have tested positive,” said Dr. Jennifer Wilcox the PACC Director of Veterinary Services.

PACC said a group of 15 pet rabbits were surrendered recently and all 15 died despite rapid vaccination.

RHDV can cause fever, lethargy, hemorrhage, seizures and acute death in rabbits. PACC said the incubation period is one to three days.

The disease cannot pass to other animals or humans, but it has been detected in pet rabbits, rabbit food and wild rabbit populations throughout the United States.

PACC said it southern Arizona lists the disease as “endemic,” meaning it can’t be eradicated.

“The virus lasts for months in contaminated environments, even in extreme heat,” PACC said in a release. “It can be spread by any secretions of infected rabbits, plus via contaminated food, equipment, insects, native predators, and boots and other husbandry items.”

Monica Dangler, PACC Director of Animal Services, said the disease is temporarily making an impact on operations.

“Right now, we aren’t able to take in rabbits due to RVDV2,” she said. “We are working swiftly on our vaccine protocol so that we can begin to take them in again.”

Anyone needing help can contact PACC Pet Support Center at 520-724-5900.

PACC said some private exotic animal clinics may be able to vaccinate pet rabbits for RVDV2. The cost will vary depending on location.

“Bottom line is that all rabbit owners should get their pet vaccinated twice as soon as they can in order to prevent heartbreak,” Dangler said.

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