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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease_ Indiana

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease,


June 15, 2005

Impact Worksheet


An outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) occurred in a backyard rabbitry in Vanderburgh County, IN on May 27, 2005. The disease was confirmed by Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on June 7. No additional outbreaks have been identified. The only reported outbreaks of RHD in the US were in Iowa in 2000, and in Utah, Illinois (due to rabbit movement from Utah) and New York in 2001. RHD was first identified in China in 1984, and is now considered endemic in many parts of the world. It is a highly infectious disease in which up to 90% of the affected animals may die.

The US rabbit industry is multi-faceted and comprised of meat and fur production, research rabbit production and hobbyists who raise rabbits for pets, shows and private consumption. Precise data on the rabbit industry is difficult to find due to the relatively small size and diverse nature of the industry. The overall financial value of the rabbit industry is small when compared to other livestock industries in the US and to the rabbit industries of other countries. The US does export rabbits and rabbit products, but its share of world exports is small. US imports of rabbits and rabbit products are also small when compared to other livestock industry imports. In the past three years, most US live rabbit imports came from Canada . China supplied the US with the most rabbit meat in 2004, substantially increasing these exports to the US between 2003 and 2004. In the past three years, the majority of imported rabbit furskins originated in Belgium and Spain .

How extensive is the situation?

An outbreak of RHD began on May 27, 2005 in a backyard rabbitry in Vanderburgh County, Indiana. Eight of a group of eleven rabbits that were purchased in Kentucky at a flea market on May 24 died acutely three days later in Indiana following introduction into the herd. The owner had approximately 200 rabbits in total, nearly half of which also subsequently died. A foreign animal disease investigation was initiated jointly by the Indiana Board of Animal Health and APHIS- Veterinary Services on June 3. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease was confirmed at Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on June 7.

The current outbreak appears to be confined to the index premises where 104 rabbits were euthanized on June 8, with cleaning and disinfection following. Some rabbit fatalities were reported at a pet shop that was supplied by the index premises and samples from these rabbits are currently being tested at the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. No other indications of additional affected premises have been found to date. Tracebacks to the seller and the flea market in Kentucky are underway in addition to traceouts from the index premises. The last outbreaks of RHD in the US were in Iowa in 2000, and in Utah, Illinois and New York in 2001. Background Information on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), also known as rabbit calicivirus disease and as viral hemorrhagic disease of rabbits, first appeared in China in 1984 and is now considered to be endemic in much of the world including most of Europe, much of Asia, and in Australia , New Zealand , and Cuba .

Rabbits of the genus Oryctolagus are susceptible to RHD. This includes most show, pet, and laboratory rabbits. Wild rabbits in the US , such as the cottontail and jack rabbit, are not of the genus Oryctolagus and are not susceptible to RHD. An exception to this is a population of rabbits of the genus Oryctolagus that live on the San Juan Islands, Washington. European rabbits that have escaped into the wild in the US can also be susceptible. Humans and other mammals are not affected by RHD.

RHD is a highly contagious virus and up to 90% of affected animals may die. The disease progresses rapidly, with death typically occurring 1-3 days after initial infection. The virus is hardy and disease can be transmitted by contact with infected rabbits or their excreta, rabbit products (meat, furskins, offal), insects (mechanical transmission), rodents, and contaminated objects, such as cages, feeders, and clothing. There is some evidence that rabbits surviving infection can become carriers of the virus and spread disease to other susceptible rabbits. Vaccines to protect domestic rabbits have been developed and are used in Europe, Australia and New Zealand . Vaccine to protect against RHD is not currently approved in the US .

Sources: OIE, USDA:APHIS:CEAH:CEI: Impact Worksheets, USDA:APHIS Factsheets, Center for Food Security and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

The US Rabbit Industry

The US rabbit industry is composed of a number of diverse groups with differing goals. Commercial production includes rabbit meat and rabbit furs and skins. Rabbits are also produced for the research community. Hobby rabbits can include rabbits raised as pets, for the show circuit, home consumption or as 4H animals. The exact numbers within these groups are unknown. The total estimated domestic rabbit population in the US in 2000 was 9 million. The overall value of the rabbit industry is small when compared to other livestock industries in the US , as well as in comparison to rabbit industries in other countries. The total estimated value for all rabbit industries (commercial, research, and hobby) in the US , where information is available, was $745 to $831 million in 2001. Currently, rabbits are not classified as livestock in the US . Rabbits are covered under the Animal Welfare Act administered by APHIS, Animal Care. Source: US Rabbit Industry Profile, USDA:APHIS:VS:CEAH:CEI, 2002. What are US exports and imports of live rabbits/hares and rabbit/hare products? US Exports The US exports relatively small amounts of live rabbits and rabbit meat (Table 1). The total value of US exports of rabbits and rabbit meat can be highly variable from year to year. Countries that receive US exports of live rabbits or rabbit meat also vary from year to year. Over the past several years, US exports of rabbit meat have declined substantially and in 2003 accounted for only about 0.02% of world rabbit meat exports. The value of US live rabbit exports accounted for 3.5% and 2.7% of total world export value in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The corresponding shares for the volume of live rabbit exports were 1.4% and 1.1% for the same two years. The US exported no rabbit furskins between 2002 and 2004. Between 2002 and 2004, the value of US live rabbit exports declined by about one-half, with most of the decline occurring between the latter two years of the time period. Canada receives the vast majority of US rabbit exports and the proportion of total live rabbits that were sent to Canada grew from about 61% in 2002 to 93% in 2004. During 2002, the US exported almost one fourth of its live exports to Japan ; however, by 2004 Japan received no US live rabbit exports. During 2004, the US only exported live rabbits to Canada , Italy , and Israel . Concordant with the 50% decline in US live rabbit exports during the 2002 – 2004 time period, was a 60% drop in US rabbit meat exports (Table 2). Also, over this three-year period, the receiving markets for US rabbit meat shifted substantially. Belgium and French Polynesia were the recipients of 46% and 35% of rabbit meat exports, respectively, in 2002; however, the US did not export any rabbit meat to these countries during 2004. Conversely, Guatemala did not import US rabbit meat in 2002; however, it was the largest US export market for this product during 2004, receiving 82% of US rabbit meat exports. > Table 1. US Exports of Live Rabbits/Hares, by Country, 2002 – 2004


Value (US $)Quantity (number)Value (US $)Quantity (number)Value (US $)Quantity (number)
> World675,15020,486623,85319,542331,0239,323
> Canada412,14413,573382,50011,790308,2428,669
> Italy10,82540028,0001,20215,853590
Korea , South008,56124000
United Kingdom24,2381,21317,66288400
Source: United Nations FAO, Global Trade Atlas Table 2. US Exports of Rabbit/Hare Meat, by Country, 2002 – 2004
Value (US $)Quantity (kg)Value (US $)Quantity (kg)Value (US $)Quantity (kg)
French Polynesia26,65610,89617,9951,74600
Source: United Nations FAO, Global Trade Atlas Data on US state exports of rabbit meat are only available by value, not by quantity. The states represented in the table below (Table 3) are the states from which export movement originated and not necessarily the states in which the product was grown or manufactured. The US exported only a minimal amount of rabbit meat in recent years. The majority (82%) of US rabbit meat exports in 2004 were exported from California. > Table 3. US Exports of Rabbit Meat, by State, 2002 – 2004
> Exports of Rabbit Meat, Fresh or Frozen (US $’s)
> Total All States77,06523,79731,060
> Arkansas03,3000
> California12,587025,325
> Georgia9,70911,3843,168
> Illinois4,16000
> New York4,36000
> North Carolina09,1130

> Texas


> Source: World Trade Atlas, U.S. State Exports US Imports From 2002 through 2004, the US received between 92% and 99% of all live rabbit imports from Canada (Table 4). During 2004, Argentina , which had not exported rabbits to the US in 2002 and 2003, exported the second highest number of live rabbits into the US . In addition to Argentina , several other countries that had not exported rabbits to the US in the previous few years began to export live rabbits into the US . Table 4. US Imports of Live Rabbits/Hares, by Country, 2002 – 2004
Value (US $)Quantity (number)Value (US $)Quantity (number)Value (US $)Quantity (number)
South Africa008,000400
Source: Global Trade Atlas US imports of rabbit meat, which were valued at slightly over one million dollars during 2002 and 2003, jumped to about $1.9 million in 2004 (Table 5). This increase was entirely due to imports from China which rose in value from $1 million to $1.8 million. In 2004, China accounted for 96% of all rabbit meat imports to the US . Canada and Peru are the only other nations from which the US imported rabbit meat during 2004. Table 5. US Imports of Rabbit/Hare Meat, by Country, 2002 – 2004
Value (US $)Quantity (kg)Value (US $)Quantity (kg)Value (US $)Quantity (kg)
Source: Global Trade Atlas By value, the majority of rabbit and hare furskins imported to the US are dressed and tanned (Table 6). Although the number of dressed and tanned furskins declined between 2002 and 2004 from about 1.2 million to 627,000, the associated value of the imported furskins fluctuated around $1 million over the same three-year period. The US imported the majority of tanned furskins from Spain in each year of the period, although China substantially increased its share of the value of tanned furskin exports to the US and by 2004 had 36% of the US ’s imported tanned furskin market compared to Spain ’s 51%. In 2004, the remaining 13% of tanned furskin imports to the US originated from nine countries, the majority of which belong to the EU. Table 6. US Imports of Rabbit/Hare Furskins, 2002 – 2004


Value (US $)Quantity (number)Value (US $)Quantity (number )Value (US $)Quantity (number )
Tanned furskins1,280,0001,155,386993,000787,0811,136,000626,532
Raw furskins225,000811,873408,0001,581,448332,000982,621
Source: World Trade Atlas The numbers of imported raw rabbit furskins jumped from about 800,000 to 1.6 million between 2002 and 2003 and then declined to just under 1 million in 2004. While tanned furskins comprised a 77% share in the value of total rabbit furskin imports, the number of raw furskin imports made up 61% of the overall quantity of rabbit furskins imported to the US in 2004. The top two countries from which the US imported raw rabbit furskins in 2004 were Belgium , with 69% of imports, and Germany , with 24% of total raw furskin imports. What is the Distribution of Rabbit Farms and Rabbits in the US ? In 2002, establishments that house rabbits were situated in all 50 states of the US , ranging from 5 farms in Hawaii to 826 farms in Texas. Although Texas had the largest number of establishments housing rabbits, Pennsylvania with over 54,000 rabbits had the largest numbers of farmed rabbits. Both, Indiana and Kentucky may be considered medium-sized rabbit producing states, respectively housing about 7,000 and 7,200 rabbits. Number of Establishments and Rabbits by State, 2002 USDA Census of Agriculture
State Farms Rabbits State Farms Rabbits
Arkansas17322,877New Hampshire57584
California41745,795New Jersey1162,937
Colorado1983,357New Mexico92986
Connecticut721,316New York44117,758
Delaware756North Carolina2137,078
Florida25415,303North Dakota38525
Indiana3356,933Rhode Island8215
Iowa2083,486South Carolina1192,245
Kansas1286,309South Dakota53775
Minnesota3287,011West Virginia2052,560
Note : The number of rabbits is the inventory at last inspection. The data only include those premises for which the value of agricultural production was greater the $1,000 per year. Source: USDA, NASS, 2002 Census of Agriculture; CEI’s plans for follow up: CEI will continue to monitor the situation but has no plans at this time to issue additional reports. If you need more information or if you have questions or would like to comment on this worksheet, please contact Cynthia Johnson at (970) 494-7332 or Wolf Weber at (970) 494-7222.

Additional Information