Policies and Guidelines Regarding VHD

Jul 10, 2011

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Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD), also known as Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD), is, in essence, rabbit Ebola disease. Highly contagious and a horrible way for rabbits to die, the disease kills within 24—48 hours and has few clinical symptoms. It is in our rabbits’ best interests to eradicate the disease while putting the fewest number of rabbits at risk. As of April 2000, an outbreak of VHD has been documented in one area of Iowa.

The following set of standards describes House Rabbit Society’’s policies regarding VHD as well as recommended measures that should be taken to prevent outbreaks of this disease and actions to be taken in the event of an outbreak. We must respond quickly if an outbreak occurs. It is important that HRS members cooperate and follow federal, state, and local governmental agency directions with regard to epidemic issues, such as VHD.

Section 1: HRS Policies Regarding VHD

  1. The role of HRS regarding this issue will be to provide support to the public by collecting, evaluating, and disseminating information on VHD.
  2. The value of companion rabbits is immeasurable, and this must be considered in policy conditions concerning VHD control.
  3. HRS recognizes the legal and ethical responsibility to report cases of this virulent disease and does not condone concealing this information from authorities.
  4. HRS shall not accept rabbits from countries where VHD (including RCD) is endemic without a negative blood test and a 14-day quarantine.
  5. HRS shall not release membership or adoption records to authorities.
  6. HRS may appeal, on behalf of its members, any agency’s decision to recommend euthanasia for exposed companion rabbits in favor of less drastic measures such as strict quarantine and serology.
  7. HRS will provide guidelines to protect rabbits during an outbreak.
  8. HRS volunteers shall follow the below-listed standards of practice recommended by HRS as to specific issues/topics, as well as those that from time to time shall be issued by HRS.

Section 2: HRS General Guidelines Regarding VHD

Guidelines to protect rabbits in an affected area during an outbreak:

  1. Limit contact (as much as possible) with places where rabbits might be found, including breeders, shows, pet stores, veterinary offices, homes, and animal shelters.
  2. Disinfect one’s person and items–following approved procedures*–when contact with such an area is unavoidable.
  3. Follow quarantine procedures as directed by the regulatory agency.
  4. All rabbit movement into and out of the premises (including adoptions, purchases, exhibitions, sales, grooming, and nonessential veterinary care) should cease until the quarantine is over.
  5. Seek veterinary evaluation of any unexplained rabbit death.
  6. Quarantine any rabbit who MAY have been exposed to VHD–or its vectors–for 14 days; the quarantine for an individual rabbit may only be lifted if the rabbit tests seronegative (i.e., a blood test for VHD antibodies is negative).

Guidelines to protect rabbits after an outbreak:

  1. Disinfect affected premises following approved procedures.*
  2. Allow no new rabbits on the premises for 12 weeks.

*Disinfection Guidelines are currently being researched and will be distributed as soon as they are available.

Approved by the National HRS Board of Directors April 28, 2000

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