College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture

Rabbits in Greenville County diagnosed with Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease


Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type-2 (RHDV2) has been detected for the first time in South Carolina after animal health authorities were alerted to a sudden die-off of feral rabbits at a homestead in Greenville County.

The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center tested the rabbits in Columbia, and the diagnosis was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).

The surviving rabbits at the location have been quarantined and animal health authorities have asked the owners to contain them in hutches to avoid further spread and to prevent further contact with wild rabbits.

“RHDV2’s mortality rate is 70 percent or higher. Our goal at this point is to do what we can to prevent the virus from spreading into the wild rabbit population and potentially further infecting domesticated rabbits,” said Michael Neault, State Veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health (LPH).

Clinical signs of the virus include sudden death, anorexia, lethargy, conjunctivitis, respiratory signs, and bloodstained noses or mouths.

RHDV2 is a highly contagious Calicivirus that affects domestic rabbits, wild or feral rabbits and hares. The virus is shed by infected rabbits and transmitted through direct contact, bedding, water, feed, hay and other materials used in the care and feeding of rabbits. It can also be spread by insects and human contact.

Wild rabbit in profile sitting in grass.
RHDV2’s mortality rate is 70 percent or higher.

While RHDV2 does not impact human health, it has a high fatality rate among domestic and wild rabbits, and has become endemic in the Western U.S. There is no live test for RHDV2.

“The introduction of RHDV2 to wild rabbits in South Carolina poses a serious threat to wild populations and has contributed to significant mortality events in the western United States. It is important that we do what we can to prevent contact between infected feral rabbits and wild rabbits,” said Will Dillman, Assistant Chief of Wildlife for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The USDA recommends the following biosecurity practices:

  • Do not allow pet or wild rabbits to have contact with your rabbits or gain entry to the facility or home.
  • Do not allow visitors in rabbitries or let them handle pet rabbits without protective clothing (including coveralls, shoe covers, hair covering and gloves).
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water before entering your rabbit area, after removing protective clothing and before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Do not introduce new rabbits from unknown or untrusted sources. Do not add rabbits to your rabbitry from animal shelters or other types of rescue operations.
  • If you bring outside rabbits into your facility or home, keep them separated from your existing rabbits for at least 30 days. Use separate equipment for newly acquired or sick rabbits to avoid spreading disease.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry. It is recommended to disinfect with 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide mixed with water (follow cleaning label instructions).
  • Establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review disease prevention and containment practices (biosecurity) to decrease risk to healthy rabbits.

Additional information and biosecurity recommendations can be found by visiting the Clemson LPH Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus webpage.

Rabbit owners are encouraged to discuss vaccination options with their veterinarian.

If your rabbit becomes ill or dies and you suspect RHDV2, please contact your veterinarian.

Veterinarians can submit samples for testing by contacting the Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center at 803-726-7831.

Concerns about wild rabbits should be directed to SC Department of Natural Resources: Michael Hook; 803-734-3940;

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