Life-threatening ailments have hit fish, deer and elk, among other wildlife. Now one such disease is making its way into wild and domestic Montana rabbits.

It's called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD). And the Montana Department of Livestock  received notification that four rabbits in Yellowstone County tested positive for it. The disease has also been reported in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, California, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming, Florida, and New York.

The rabbits were found dead by a landowner and reported to regional Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks staff. The rabbits were not wild, but instead appeared to be domestic rabbits that had previously been released in the area. Samples from the rabbits were submitted to  laboratory, where infection was confirmed.

The Montana Department of Livestock is working to identify how the disease was introduced into Montana. RHD is highly fatal. Infected rabbits may show signs including fever, sudden death, dullness, lack of appetite, wasting, diarrhea or respiratory signs with bloody discharge from the nose or mouth. RHD is spread by direct contact with live or dead rabbits, or indirectly through contaminated objects, including rabbit meat and pelts. The virus can also be transmitted from a person with contaminated hands, scavengers, or insects, and can remain infectious in carcasses or the environment for weeks to months.

The virus does not affect humans or other domestic animals. There is no treatment for infected rabbits. There is also no commercially available vaccine licensed for use in the United States. However, states with confirmed cases can request approval to import vaccines from overseas for limited use in domestic rabbits within the state.

If you or someone you know raises rabbits, if you have seen any deceased in the wild or if you have questions or concerns, the Department of Livestock urges you to call (406) 444-2976.


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