VHD/RCD Outbreak in Utah Confirmed
by Pamela Alley, RVT
List Owner and Director of
the Rabbit Industry Council (RIC)
outbreak of the deadly rabbit disease VHD/RCD
in Utah (Viral Hemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits/Rabbit
Calcivirus Disease) has been confirmed by
the USDA/APHIS (the United States Department
of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service). According to Ed Curlett of USDA/APHIS,
on Wednesday, August 15, 2001, samples of
rabbits who were thought to be infected were
submitted to USDA/APHIS's Plum Island Foreign
Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL).
On Friday, August 18, these samples were
confirmed as being positive forVHD/RCD, based
on hemagglutination tests and electron microscopy.
apparent origin in Utah County, Utah, from
which the samples came, is a herd of 900
rabbits kept in the same barn, which were
owned by two people. Breeds of rabbits include
Rex and possibly others. The rabbitry was
placed under quarantine and the herd depopulated.
A second, undisclosed rabbitry in Utah was
also placed under quarantine and depopulated.
Cleaning and disinfection of both premises
is ongoing. Utah State and federal officials
are continuing to interview people who had
previous contact with any of these rabbits.
Dr. Mike Marshall, State Veterinarian of
Utah, has been involved the investigation.
to Dr. Crom of USDA/APHIS Emergency Services,
rabbits from the Utah rabbitry were sent
to Montana and Illinois before the disease
was discovered. Some of the rabbits passed
through Idaho. Here is the current status
of the rabbits from the Utah rabbitry
in those areas:
Three rabbits from the Utah orgin rabbitry
were sent to Yellowstone County, Montana.
While on their journey, they came in
contact with two animals bound for slaughter
in California. These two rabbits then
came in contact with animals headed to
the Montana Fair, in Billings, Montana
on August 18, leading to the quarantine
of the premises of all rabbit exhibitors
who were present at the show. The three
rabbits brought from the infected premises
in Utah were euthanized and samples taken.
Preliminary test results were negative
for the three rabbits that were euthanized.
The remaining rabbits are under quarantine
on this premises and further action is
dependent on the results from additional
lab tests from these rabbits. As a result
of possible exposure at the Montana State
Fair, Dr. Gertonson, State Veterinarian
of Montana, placed 15 premises under
quarantine. These premises will remain
under quarantine until final lab results
Seventy-two rabbits from the infected
Utah premises were sent to a Mercer County
rabbitry containing 300 rabbits. Preliminary
test results are positive for the rabbits
that were received from the infected
Utah premises, and the Mercer County
rabbitry is in strict quarantine. No
animals have moved from the property
since their arrival, and plans are being
made to depopulate the herd. Discussions
are under way to determine the value
of the animals. When an agreement has
been reached between the owner and State
and Federal officials, the remaining
animals will be euthanized and disposed
of appropriately. Dr. Hull, State Veterinarian
of Illinois, is managing that portion
of the investigation.
The meat truck carrying two of the rabbits
from Yellowstone County, Montana, premises
(but not the Utah origin rabbits) was
stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho. There the
3600 animals aboard the truck were euthanized
and disposed of, and the truck was disinfected
thoroughly. Potentially exposed rabbits
from the meat truck were also tested;
those results were negative. There is
no known occurrence of disease in Idaho
at this point.
No rabbits involved with the Utah location
have reached California, and there are
no known incidents in the state.
source of the disease in the Utah herd
has not been determined.
all of the epidemiological data gathered
so far, it seems that the outbreak has
been contained to the premises mentioned
above. Tracing in all affected states
has revealed no other rabbit movements
from these premises before quarantines
were placed. Information is still being
gathered from various concerned rabbit
owners and is being considered in light
of the known information.
Veterinary Services and the State Department's
of Agriculture of Utah, Montana, Idaho
and Illinois are working together to
address the situation. Veterinary Services
(VS) will assist the affected States
in the depopulation and cleaning and
disinfecting of the premises. VS also
will investigate reports of suspect VHD/RCD
as part of the foreign animal disease
surveillance program and will continue
to diagnose suspect cases at FADDL.
is the second recorded outbreak of VHD/RCD
in the United States. The first occured
last year in a rabbitry in Iowa and was
contained by quarantine and the killing
of affected rabbits. VHD/RCD, however,
is prevalent in many parts of the world,
such as Australia. VHD/RCD is highly infectious among
rabbits, but does not affect humans and
other mammals. VHD/RCD is usually fatal.
There is no known cure. For more information
on VHD/RCD, see the VHD FAQ on Rabbit Web or visit the VHD Info site.
You Can Do
Various sources have been quite indignant
about the outbreak, charging that rabbits
are being constantly moved interstate illegally,
without health certificates (also known
as CVIs--Certificates of Veterinary Inspection)
or entry permits. Please, before moving
any rabbits interstate, make sure to call
the state veterinarian's office of the
state to which you plan to go. The system
of health certificates is the only truly
reliable way we have at this point in time
to track disease occurrence and origin.
Marshall of Utah, Dr. Lee of Montana,
and Dr. Hull of Illinois were all very
emphatic that omission of health checks,
certificates, and legal movement are
a major factor in the spread of any contagious
disease. Had health checks and certification
been done prior to moving these animals,
it is possible that they would not have
been allowed to enter another state,
based on their health and that of the
there is a strong possibility that you
or your animals, or visitors to your
place, have been in contact with the
area or animals already involved, showing
can be done cautiously and with care....that
is the consensus from USDA/APHIS.
use your head when showing, selling,
or buying animals at this time, as well
as when visiting other rabbit premises.
Carry a spray bottle of potent disinfectant
(10% bleach works) and use it on your
shoes before getting back in your car.
VHD/RCD can be spread by anyone who has
had contact with an infected rabbit or
by an object touched by an infected rabbit.
you have information about a possible
outbreak of VHD/RCD, please call your
state veterinarian immediately. You can
also contact USDA, APHIS, Veterinary
Services, Emergency Programs staff at
301-734-8073, 800-940-6524, or EMOC@USDA.GOV.
further information on VHD/RCD and on
this latest outbreak of the disease in
the United States, check out these links: