Viral haemorrhagic disease

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Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) is a highly contagious disease that affects only rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species. VHD is also known as rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD), rabbit calici-virus disease (RCVD), and viral hemorrhagic disease of rabbits (VHDR).

It is caused by the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), also known as rabbit calicivirus (RCV).


There are a number of different strains of RHD. Currently RHDV2 (VHD-2), a strain found in France in 2010, is spreading throughout Europe. The UK now has access to the new vaccine (Cunivak RHD) that is effective against the new strain. If you or your vet needs information or has questions please read the new facebook post by The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.

July 28th, 2016: RVHD2: The UK’s Newest Fatal Rabbit Disease. Registered veterinary nurse Jo Hinde gives a “general overview of the current RVHD2 situation in the UK including information for veterinary professionals and owners regarding prevalence, prevention, vaccination, biosecurity and what to do if you have a sudden rabbit death.”

Joe Carey (UK), author of the VHD-2 facts sheet, contacted Dr. Ghislaine Le Gall-Reculé PhD (in charge of research and scientific/technical studies on rabbit and hare caliciviroses & main author of the French research paper) asking about VHD-2. Responce here.

If you are in the Netherlands you can read: “Bunny owners warned of new hemorrhagic disease killing Dutch rabbits” by the NL Times. More Dutch information here. If you find a dead wild rabbit contact the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre (DWHC) to report it.

Australia & New Zealand

Australia also has a number of variants of RHD. There are plans to release RHVD1 (K5 variant made in South Korea) in Spring 2016 or Autumn 2017. You can follow the latest information on the Facebook group: Against K 5 Virus and For a Vaccine to Save Rabbits from RHDV2.

Studies & Papers

North and South America

The source of infection in past American VHD outbreaks is not known. However, these may not be only outbreaks to have happened in the past.

Notable outbreaks


  • Late 1980s to 1991 – Endemic in Mexico: The source of the Mexican outbreak was traced to the importation, through the United States, of 18 metric tons of rabbit meat from the People’s Republic of China to a supermarket chain outside Mexico City. Over 110,000 rabbits died or were destroyed.[1]
  • 2000 – Iowa (US): began 9 Mar 2000 in a backyard rabbitry of 27 pet Palominos and California White rabbits in west central Iowa. 25 of the 27 rabbits died by Apr 6, the rest euthanized, and the outbreak was contained to the single premise. The origin of the outbreak is unknown, and no new rabbits had been introduced over the last two years. Aug 1999 was the last time the rabbits had left the farm and returned.[2][3]
  • 2001 – Cuba: an outbreak was reported Jan 15 in Havana and Havana City province in an operation that produced rabbits for private consumption.[4]
  • 2001 – Utah (US): began 17 Aug 2001 in a rabbitry in Utah County, Utah. 65 of 900 rabbits on the premises had died by Aug 20, and the rest were euthanized.[5] The farm had shipped rabbits to three locations: 3 rabbits to another site in Utah, 3 rabbits to a premise in Yellowstone County, Montana, and 72 rabbits to a location in Mercer County, Illinois. No clinical disease was noted in the second Utah premise; however, both premises were depopulated.

    At the Montana site, the rabbits from Utah were euthanized and buried on the property, and the remaining rabbits were placed under quarantine until final test results from the euthanized Utah rabbits was negative. Two other rabbits (not the Utah origin rabbits) from the Montana premises, while in route to a truck for slaughter, had been co–mingled with rabbits that were on their way to the Montana State Fair. These two Montana rabbits were then placed on a truck carrying 3,600 rabbits in route to California through Idaho; all 3,600 rabbits considered to be contacts were euthanized.[3]

  • 2001 – Illinois (US): an outbreak in Mercer County, Illinois, due to receiving rabbits from Utah premises.
  • 2001 – New York (US): Early December in a domestic rabbit housed in a captive exotic animal facility in Flushing, NY. Site was open to the public.
  • 2005 – Cuba: an outbreak was reported 21 Jan 2005 in the Havana city and province. 14,450 affected rabbits and 2,362 rabbit deaths were reported by 28 Dec 2004.[6]
  • 2005 – Indiana (US): began 27 May 2005 in a backyard rabbitry in Vanderburgh County, Indiana. Eight of a group of eleven rabbits that were purchased in Kentucky at a flea market died acutely three days later in Indiana following introduction into the herd. The owner had approximately 200 rabbits in total, nearly half of which also subsequently died.[7]
  • 2005 – Uruguay: an outbreak was reported 28 Dec 2005 among backyard domestic rabbits in suburban areas of the city of Montevideo, and in adjacent areas in the departments of Canelones and San Jose. This was the first report of RHD in Uruguay and South America. 4,689 rabbits were affected on 45 premises, and 2,820 rabbits died. The remaining 1,869 sick rabbits were culled.[8]
  • 2008 – Maryland (US): Private residence involving 4 mature pet rabbits.
  • 2010 – Minnesota (US): Private residence that received donated pet rabbits for use as a food source at a wildlife center.
  • 2011 – Manitoba (CA): March 30th, first case in Canada.[9] A one year old male lop that was purchased from a local pet store in the spring of 2010. The lop was surrendered to the store, and its origin could not be determined. It may have been from the area where the last US reported case was in Minnesota in 2010.


  • 2016 – Three farms near Rimouski (Mont-Joli & Bas-Saint-La), Quebec (Canada): New rabbits were introduced from one farm into another, “small hobby rabbit farms.” Start of the outbreak: Aug 13th, 2016. Virus showed 96.2% identity to RHDVb (or RHDV2) isolate (GenBank: KT000337.1) from São Jorge in Azores Islands. Source
  • 2018 – British Columbia (CA): February 18th SPCA contacted about a group of dead rabbits. Three rabbits were sent to the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford and confirmed to have RHD. February 27th, reports about an unusual number (12) of dead rabbits found in the Rotary Bowl in Nanaimo were reported on. March 2nd, Victoria News reports that Rabbit haemorrhagic disease was the cause for the deaths around the Vancouver Island University area. The British Columbia Gov’t officially warns people “to take precautions.” CBC News update.

Further reading


  1. Gregg, DA et al. (1991). Viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits in Mexico: epidemiology and viral characterization. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  2. United States Department of Agriculture. (2014). Rabbit Calicivirus Disease, Iowa, April 2000 Impact Worksheet. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  3. 3.0 3.1 United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (Calicivirus) in the U.S., 2000–2001. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  4. United States Department of Agriculture. (2014). Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, Cuba, January 2001. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  5. United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). Viral Hemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits, Utah Impact Worksheet, August 28, 2001. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  6. (2013). Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD), Cuba , February 1, 2005 Impact Worksheet. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  7. United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, Indiana, June 16, 2005 Impact Worksheet. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  8. United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD), Uruguay, January 5, 2005 Impact Worksheet. Retrieved 16 Apr 2018 from
  9. Embury-Hyatt, C et al. (2012). The first reported case of rabbit hemorrhagic disease in Canada. Retrieved 13 Mar 2017 from

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