June 11, 2005

Outbreak Kills 100 Rabbits in Indiana

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- State officials are investigating an outbreak of a rare, rapidly spreading disease that killed about 100 rabbits on a southwest Indiana farm.

The rabbit deaths mark the first recorded diagnosis in Indiana of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, a virus that causes death in about 90 percent of infected animals, said Denise Derrer, spokeswoman for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

In late May, a Vanderburgh County farmer, who raises rabbits to sell as pets and food for large snakes, noticed that about eight of his 200 rabbits had died. Over the next two weeks, 100 more died. The remaining rabbits were euthanized, and the carcasses were burned to reduce the chance of spreading the virus, officials said.

Investigators believe the disease may have come from Kentucky, where the farmer had bought rabbits, Derrer said.

The disease is not known to harm humans, other animals or wild rabbit species, Derrer said.

Officials are advising local rabbit owners to watch for signs of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, especially in rabbits purchased at swap meets or flea markets in Kentucky, Derrer said.

Most rabbits die within six to 24 hours of the onset of a fever, and a clear or bloody foamy discharge is often found around the animal's body openings.

The disease is spread through contact with an infected rabbit, urine, feces and rabbit products, such as bedding, cages and feed, according to the state board of animal health.


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com