A case of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease has been detected for the first time in the state. The virus – which can be deadly to rabbits and hares — was found in domesticated rabbits in Story County.

State veterinarian Jeff Kaisand says rabbit owners should watch their pets for any signs of sickness before allowing them to interact with other rabbits. “If you are then going to exhibitions or commingled events of shows, make sure you’re taking minimize the amount of contact that happens during the show, equipment that is shared,” he says.

Erin Kalkwarf works with A Home for Every Bunny. She says the central Iowa rabbit rescue is encouraging rabbit owners to get their pets vaccinated against the highly contagious virus. “In the meantime, taking steps at home to make sure that you keep your rabbits protected from any pets that go outside regularly. Maybe you have a different pair of shoes or slippers that you wear in your home so that you wouldn’t be bringing anything in the house to yourself,” she says.

Iowa DNR Wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says there have been no cases reported in wild rabbits. He says they want to hear if hunters see something unusual. He says if hunters see a dead rabbit that doesn’t have any obvious signs that it was attacked by another animal or hit by a vehicle, they would like hunters to call the DNR so they can investigate. You are also encouraged to report any suspected incidents of the disease to the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

(By Kendal Crawford, Iowa Public Radio/Dar Danielson Radio Iowa)