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Bunnies get vaccinated against rabbit hemorrhagic disease

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:31 AM EST
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A South Florida veterinarian distributed vaccines Tuesday to help prevent the spread of a deadly virus affecting rabbits.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) is a virus impacting bunnies in multiple states including Florida.

Two cases have been identified in Florida since 2020.

RHDV2 does not impact human health, but about 80 percent of rabbits that contract the virus don't survive.

Dr. Susan Kelleher of Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital in Broward County held the vaccine event Tuesday afternoon for rabbit owners to get their pets inoculated against the virus. More than 40 rabbits got the shot, including six owned by Jasmin Springer.

"My rabbits are Cinnabon and Bonbon. They are a pair. And then there's Mello and Snowflake and they are a pair. And then there's Strudel and Zera," Springer said.

Springer said she wants to make sure her beloved pets are protected.

"It's very contagious, and even if you keep your rabbits inside like I do, it's so contagious that you can walk on the bacteria of the disease and bring it inside your house," Springer said.

Kelleher said the virus is very deadly.

"This virus has greater than 80 percent mortality rate in rabbits. They die suddenly from a high fever and bleeding from the nose and mouth. We were able to get special permitting for the vaccine," Kelleher said.

The virus has quickly spread across the U.S. in a short period of time.

"The fact that it has gone all the way across the United States in two years demonstrates how contagious that is," Kelleher said.

She offers this advice for bunny owners.

"Our recommendation is that the rabbits are not allowed to play outside in the yard. Don't bring any new rabbits into the home, be careful with movements of rabbits into other states," Kelleher said.

Every rabbit that is vaccinated against the virus will also need to have a microchip, which is also being offered at Kelleher's office.

The veterinarian's next RHDV2 vaccination event is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.

The cost of the vaccine is $60, and the microchip is $36.

Contact Kelleher's office in Deerfield Beach at 954-968-7171 for more details.

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