The first case of rabbit disease in Hawaii was found on a Maui farm; quarantined

PC: Canva image via USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture have confirmed the H5 Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) virus in a 4-5 year old male rabbit that was sterilized on a farm in Kula.

According to the information release, this is the first confirmed diagnosis of the disease in Hawaii. Although RHDV2 is lethal to rabbits, it cannot be transmitted from animals to humans and does not affect human health.

The Livestock Industry Division of HDOA received a report on June 14 that nine of the 12 rabbits on Maui Farm had died. An immediate detention order was issued to prevent rabbits and related cages and materials from moving on and off the farm.

HDOA received confirmation of RHDV2 infection in a rabbit tested by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory on June 17 and the building was officially quarantined by the HDOA State Veterinarian. Isaac Maeda.

The quarantine period is expected to be 120 days after the completion of cleaning and disinfection. The disease appears to be contagious and is not expected to spread.


RHDV2 is a highly contagious viral disease and is classified as a foreign animal disease and its detection requires notification to the USDA and the World Organization for Animal Health.


The disease was first detected in the United States in 2018 and has since been detected in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, New York, Kentucky, Mississippi, Minnesota and Southern States. Dakota, Georgia and Florida.

The virus can be transmitted to the environment through direct contact between highly resistant and infected rabbits and indirectly through inanimate objects. Although RHDV2 does not infect species other than rabbits and hares, humans, dogs, rodents, and insects can transmit the virus through external contamination.

Unlike other rabbit hemorrhagic viruses, RHDV2 affects both domestic and wild rabbits.


Often, the only symptoms of the disease are sudden death and bleeding from the nose due to internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may have fever, reluctance to eat, or respiratory or nervous symptoms.

The cause of the epidemic is still being investigated. Not a single rabbit brought into the country has anything to do with the epidemic.

Since 2020, HDOA has tightened controls on all rabbits imported from infected countries to Hawaii and demanded stricter import requirements. Rabbits entering the country must obtain a certificate of veterinary inspection within 72 hours of arrival, after which they are inspected by HDOA livestock inspectors and quarantined for 30 days.

The state veterinarian has authorized the distribution and sale of the RHDV2 vaccine in Hawaii. Private veterinarians in Hawaii have also been warned about the epidemic. Rabbit owners should discuss the need for vaccination of rabbits with RHDV2 with private veterinarians.

Take daily steps to keep your rabbits away from viruses and protect your rabbits with good biosafety. The biosafety practices recommended by the USDA include:

• Do not allow other rabbits to come into contact with your rabbits or enter the farm or house.

• Do not allow visitors to the kennel without protective clothing (including overalls, shoes, hats and gloves) or keep pets.

• Always wash your hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.

• Do not include new rabbits from unknown or unreliable sources.

• Do not include rabbits in animal shelters or other rescue operations.

• If you bring rabbits from outside to your institution or home, keep them separate from your current rabbits for at least 30 days. To prevent the spread of the disease, use separate equipment for newly acquired or diseased rabbits.

• Sanitary cleaning of all equipment and cages relocated inside or outside the facility before returning to the facility. We recommend disinfection with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water.

• Establish a working relationship with the veterinarian to review biosafety practices to identify and close potential gaps.

Hawaii has no wild rabbit or hare populations. If the disease infects wild or loose rabbits, it will be very difficult to catch and destroy them.

Occasionally there are reports of rabbits roaming the property in Hawaii. Hawaii law must include rabbits and hares on the ground. Violations can result in fines, imprisonment, or both.

All owners or veterinarians who have suffered an unusual loss of rabbits should contact the Animal Husbandry Department of HDOA at (808) 483-7100 or (808) 837-8092.

More information about RHDV2 can be found on the USDA website by clicking here.


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