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ODA: Deadly virus confirmed in feral rabbit population near Portland

Snowshoe hare
Snowshoe hare

ODFW concerned it could spread to wild rabbits, such as cottontails

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Agriculture said Friday it has confirmed rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in a feral domestic rabbit found dead in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland and believe several others died of it as well.

RHDV2 is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits. The virus is highly contagious among rabbit populations and can spread through contact with infected rabbits, meat, fur or materials coming into contact with them. RHDV2 poses no human health risk. The virus only infects rabbits.

On March 14, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received a report from a veterinarian in Portland that eight domestic or feral rabbits were found dead in Milwaukie.

Dr. Ryan Scholz, Oregon’s state veterinarian, was immediately notified and had one of the rabbit carcasses delivered to Oregon State University for further testing. On Wednesday, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the rabbit tested positive for RHDV2.

“At this point, we are confident that all eight of the rabbits died from RHDV2, and the virus has taken hold in the feral rabbit population,” said Dr. Scholz.

To prevent the virus from spreading further into the domestic rabbit population, the state will be collecting and testing feral rabbits in the vicinity where the eight deceased rabbits were found.

ODFW said it is concerned about this disease spreading to wild rabbits such as cottontails because infections in other states have caused high mortality in wild rabbits and hares. Wild rabbits and hares have an important role in the ecosystem.

ODA and ODFW are asking the public to report rabbit mortalities to track the virus’s presence and movement. Please call 1-800-347-7028 or visit to report domestic or wild rabbits which are suspected to have died from RHDV2. Domestic rabbit owners should contact their veterinarian for more information on preventing RHDV2.

How can I prevent the spread of RHDV2?

  • Wash and disinfect hands, clothing, gloves, footwear, cages, and equipment between rabbits from different sources.
  • Quarantine new rabbits away from existing ones for 30 days.
  • Keep pet rabbits inside to avoid exposure to environments potentially contaminated by wild/feral rabbits or by people, vehicles or implements that can spread the disease.
  • Immediately contact ODA (800-347-7028) if you suspect RHD or have sick or freshly dead rabbits.
  • If you have animals not freshly dead, double plastic bag them and dispose of in a landfill.
Article Topic Follows: Wildlife

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