This fatal disease affects both domestic and wild rabbits. There is no cure for wild rabbits and a vaccine for domestic rabbits is not yet readily available in the United States. The disease has not yet been reported in North Carolina and is currently found primarily in the southwestern U.S. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their shoes and clothes, but it doesn’t impact human health.
Should the current disease outbreak make its way to the East Coast, the commission is concerned about its potential impact to native rabbit populations, particularly the Appalachian cottontail that is found only in the western part of the state at higher elevations. The Appalachian cottontail is a designated a species of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and classified as vulnerable to critically imperiled throughout most of its range.
The commission will rely on reports of rabbit mortalities to document the disease’s occurrence and potential spread in North Carolina. When moving rabbits from other states into North Carolina, rabbit owners must possess a health certificate or Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.