MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has authorized a vaccine after a highly-contagious and deadly rabbit disease was detected in Ramsey County.

On Friday, the MNBAH said state-licensed veterinarians can now order and administer the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) vaccine, manufactured by Medgene Labs. Vaccine doses could be shipped to the state as early as next week.

In a previous announcement, MNBAH said two rabbits died suddenly in Ramsey County earlier in September. Samples from their bodies sent to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed they had RHDV2.

Experts say that rabbits infected with the virus may appear lethargic or reluctant to move, and they typically die between a day and a week after contracting the disease.

“After consulting with our Board President and Medgene Labs, I made the decision to allow licensed veterinarians to begin procuring doses as soon as next week,” State Veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson said. “I’m confident in this decision based on the recent USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics emergency use authorization for the experimental vaccine.”

(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The virus spreads through direct contact with infected rabbits or through contact with contaminated blood, urine or feces. The virus can live on clothing, footwear, surfaces, as well as inside cages, surviving in feed, water and bedding.

The virus is resilient to extreme temperatures, and can survive up to 15 weeks in dry conditions. Experts recommend using a high pH solution to inactivate RHDV2 when disinfecting surfaces.

The vaccine is available in 25 dose vials. Medgene Labs is located in Brookings, South Dakota.