MDARD Authorizes New Vaccine to Protect Domestic Rabbits Against RHDV2

Vaccine protects against fatal rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2

For immediate release: October 20, 2021
Media contact: Chelsea Lewis-Parisio, 517-331-1151

LANSING, MI - Today, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's (MDARD) State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland authorized the use of a new vaccine for rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2), which must be administered by a Michigan licensed veterinarian. The implementation of this vaccine further safeguards domestic rabbits from this deadly disease.

RHDV2 is an extremely contagious, fatal disease for rabbits and hares. While RHDV2 does not affect people or other species of animals, virtually all rabbits and hares that contract the disease will die. At this time, there have been no reported cases of RHDV2 in Michigan; however, cases have been confirmed in other states.

The new RHDV2 vaccine was developed by the South Dakota-based company, Medgene Labs. The product was granted emergency use approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for wide use in the United States. The vaccine is an inactivated (killed) recombinant subunit vaccine given subcutaneously in two doses, 21 days apart. Full immunity develops 14 days after the second dose.

The vaccine is only available to, and must be administered by, licensed veterinarians in the State of Michigan.

If you are a veterinarian and interested in obtaining the vaccine, please contact Medgene Labs at 605-697-2600. For more information on the vaccine, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit the Medgene Labs website.

Even with the availability of this RHDV2 vaccine, rabbit owners should be following good biosecurity practices-both before an animal's vaccination and afterward. Biosecurity measures help to protect any animal from harmful diseases, keeping them healthy.

Recommended biosecurity measures include:

  • Avoiding the purchase and/or adoption of rabbits from areas with RHDV2.
  • Isolating newly acquired rabbits from other rabbits for at least 30 days.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting all items/surfaces a rabbit has touched, especially if a rabbit has been ill and the item is likely to be shared with another rabbit. Bleach is effective against RHDV2 but be sure to follow the label's instructions. Also, if something cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Not sharing items between different groups of rabbits.
  • Washing one's hands before and after handling a rabbit.
  • Taking off one's shoes after coming indoors and storing them in a place that is out of reach for a pet rabbit.
  • Keeping domestic rabbits away from wild rabbits. Do not let domestic rabbits outdoors.
  • Controlling for flies and rodents as they could carry the virus.
  • Opting not to feed a domestic rabbit with outdoor forage as it could be contaminated.
  • Promptly isolating any ill rabbits and contacting a veterinarian.

For more information on RHDV2, please refer to the fact sheets developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

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