Two domestic indoor rabbits from one household in Ramsey County (St. Paul) Minnesota have been confirmed dead from RHDV2, a foreign disease that has been spreading across North America in wild rabbits/hares and domestic rabbits.
Through nearly 1 1/2 years of learning from other rabbit virus outbreaks, we are extremely cautious as we move forward with our prevention plans. The fact that there is an outbreak didn't catch us off guard -- what caught us was the exact timing. So now we respond to the things we know and bend and adjust we get more information.
The Peacebunnies are based in the Twin Cities metro and regularly host programs at health care facilities, schools and senior homes across the metro area and have traveled to other states in the past. We have been leading a group to work on a mass vaccination plan for our rabbits and others and look forward to sharing updates soon. Subscribe to the RHDV2.com website for updates as they develop if you want to be part of our efforts.
In 2020 we needed to change our policies due to COVID to keep the humans safe, and now we are changing again to keep our furry friends as safe as possible from RHDV2.
It's a press release we hoped we would never see: the Minnesota State Board of Animal Health confirming the first diagnosed cases of RHDV2, the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2, in Minnesota. In RAMSEY COUNTY, here in the Twin Cities. PRESS RELEASE LINK
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED... (best practices from other states) IF YOU HAVE RABBITS AT HOME/FARM
1) Implement/upgrade your biosecurity procedures now. And we hopefully ride this out. Close off your rabbits from other people -whether or not they have rabbits. Protect rabbits by keeping them separated from other rabbits and carriers
Prevent tracking the virus on your clothing/shoes/tires Clean. Sanitize. Repeat. Keep separate shoes and clothes for rabbit time. Prevent other vehicles/guests from spreading the virus to you/your items/your place/your vehicle. 2) Consider returning to zoom meetings for 4-H, FFA etc. and follow tight biosecurity at school and events with people who raise rabbits. Be aware...you could be a link in an accidental super-spreader event to them or to your rabbits at home.
3) Do not bring your rabbits to any events like hoppy hours, meet and greets, bunny yoga, shows (all ARBA events in 125 mile outbreak are already being cancelled and rescheduled) 4) ARBA:" Exhibitors, judges, registrars and vendors residing or traveling by motor vehicle through an area of the country that is part of an active outbreak are discouraged from attending ARBA sanctioned shows in other areas or having contact with other rabbit breeders for 60 days of the last confirmed positive case."
5) Make decisions /plans about your intentions for vaccination. How many rabbits? Which ones? Do you have funds saved up? 6) Plan for safe rabbit food & hay purchase and storage (virus can survive in organic material with no live host for up to 90 days).
7) Get medical care for your sick Report suspicious symptoms before you come in so they can prepare and prevent infecting their clinic/other rabbits.
8) If a rabbit dies suspiciously, do not touch it! Report the death immediately to your vet and alert the Minnesota Board of Animal Health to be guided about how to safely handle, transport for testing etc. Gregory R Suskovic DVM 651-238-2503. Michael Crusan, communications 651-201-6815.
IF YOU SEE A DEAD/SICK WILD RABBIT IN NATURE ANYWHERE IN MINNESOTA-- DON'T TOUCH IT. Call first -- find out what to do. DNR Central 651-296-6157 888-646-6367 Rabbits will still be struck by cars etc. but report anything suspicious
IF YOU HUNT/HIKE (whether or not you have rabbits)
1) Keep an eye out for dead rabbits. Contact DNR/Conservation office (above) with the exact location if spotted. 2) Clean your shoes, tire treads, clothing after each trip outside in the woods so you don't accidentally spread the virus on your clothes or shoes or vehicle
3) Don't visit farms unless they are following strong biosecurity policies
Since the outbreaks have begun, our hearts have gone out to others who care for rabbits as we've watched the slow march of the disease eastward and spreading across North America. We've heard their stories and helped with their vaccine days as much as possible. We also hoped that no one else would join the club no one wants to join of experiencing an outbreak, the sickness, the death from disease and euthanasia for prevention. Until today, the latest, closest isolated case to us was in Rapid City, South Dakota earlier this summer. Now there is an active outbreak case being investigated and it's so fresh we don't have all the answers. We've been researching, connecting, making plans since February 2020 for the "what ifs" -- trying to prepare and make contact with leadership from other rabbit-related organizations so that we wouldn't need to meet during crisis mode. So we've been learning from best practices and mistakes from other states, other vets, other rabbit owners.
And although our plan isn't perfect and all the details aren't known yet, we are as prepared as we probably can be and now we move forward IF the foreign vaccine is approved for MN like it has been in other states with active outbreaks. But for now we wait for vaccine approval for Minnesota...then we begin the mass vaccination plans for the Peacebunnies and order extra for others who want to participate.
1) We have been raising funds through the Peacebunny Foundation to prepare to hold mass vaccine clinics. If approved we would host at least one event for Minnesota residents with rabbits.
2) Our mass vaccination plan is ready. The form is completed and ready to send. The big picture logistics of transport and distribution will need some tweeking depending on timeline, but it shouldn't be a major overhaul. Yes we will need medical and administration volunteers. ( Most likely one site in Twin Cities and one site in Alexandria MN depending on interest)
3) We are waiting for the meeting of the MN State Vet and USDA to learn if they will begin the emergency approval process and sign off on the order form and the requirements for administration of the vaccine and the documentation (i.e. must the rabbit be tattooed/microchipped, proof of vaccine records, etc.??)
4) We have an online order form ready. Once the vaccine is ordered, we'll post a link here for interested parties to sign up and request the vaccine, scheduling a time slot for the drive thru mass vaccine day.
5) We have reached out to our state and national contacts and there is a lot of work behind the scenes. We do the work and we're prepared, whether it's for now, or for later.
Thank you for your concern and prayers as we move forward with the next step in our journey.
We have chosen to post RHDV2 updates on our website www.RHDV2.com rather than post on our social media up until now. But now that it's here, we needed to bring it to your awareness to prevent the preventable.
We remain hopeful that cases can remain isolated, not cross over to the wild rabbits and hares and stay out of Minnesota. We grieve with those who have lost their sweet companions across North America. And we remain diligent and are implementing our highest biosecurity protocols until we have a new normal to celebrate.
As always, we appreciate your love and support for the furry friends. We were about to post about the sale of the Peacebunny Cottage (farm) paperwork is being finalized this month. We will continue to rent the farm and will not need to move until at least until April 2022, so there are many things to figure out over the winter about that too. As you know we have committed to the longterm care for the Peacebunnies and now we just add another chapter into the story. My faith remains resolute: God deeply cares for all of creation including the rabbits and the whole ecosystem, and we just need to do our part. We are given the charge to take care of animals and nature as best as we can. This is also our opportunity to all get together and circle up to unite to do just that.
Hugs to you all!