One week after news of the Southwest Washington Fair staff decision to not host poultry in order to prevent spread of bird flu, Lewis County Parks and Recreation Director Connie Riker made a similar announcement regarding rabbit exhibits this week.
“I am sad to announce that we will not be able to have rabbits brought to the Southwest Washington Fair this year. So unfortunately, rabbits are along the lines of poultry, turkey, chickens, doves, pigeons, etc. Different diseases, different reasons, but similar,” Riker said on Wednesday.
She reported that in Thurston County within the last week, two rabbits had died of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2), prompting fair staff to make the tough decision to keep rabbits away from the fairgrounds to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the Washington state Department of Agriculture, RHDV2 spreads between rabbits through ingestion or inhalation of the virus, which can be present in urine and feces from infected rabbits. Shared bedding, food or forage can be a source of infection.
Riker said the rabbits who died in Thurston County were frequently visited by a wild rabbit who would hang out near their cage outside. One day, the domestic bunnies were fed dandelions from the yard, and investigators determined the wild rabbit likely contaminated those dandelions with the virus.
She said the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 30 days.
“This is an incredibly contagious, very fatal disease for rabbits,” Riker said, adding later, “It’s a horrible way to die.”
The rabbit barn will be open for an educational exhibit on Wednesday and rabbit exhibitors will likely submit posters and photographs of their bunnies to have on display outside of the building.
Market sales of rabbits will be done with photographs, which is the same process that will be used for poultry sellers this year.
“They will have some contests involving stuffed rabbits that they will do in order to be able to show their showmanship and the things that they've learned regarding anatomy and feeding and care of rabbits,” Riker said.
For more information on RHDV2, visit https://agr.wa.gov/departments/animals-livestock-and-pets/animal-health/animal-diseases/rabbit-disease.