Local Outbreak of “Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2”
We would like to inform you about an emerging infectious disease that is affecting both domestic and wild rabbits in the UK. In the past few weeks we, as a practice, have seen five cases of sudden, unexplained death in pet rabbits registered with us, one of which was confirmed at post mortem to have died from Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RHD2).
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (RHD1) is the original strain of the virus and is routinely vaccinated against, along with Myxomatosis Virus, using Nobivac Myxo-RHD vaccine.
What is RHD2?
RHD2 is a new variant of the virus and was first suspected in the UK in 2010, most likely imported from mainland Europe. The threat of RHD2 to domestic rabbits has become more apparent in the past year. RHD2 can affect both young and adult rabbits. Some infected rabbits will die suddenly with no ‘obvious’ cause, others can present with difficulty breathing, lethargy, inappetence, a high temperature and blood from their bottom or nose. A few rabbits may be only mildly ill and then recover. It is spread via contaminated food/hay/water, transported on the wind or spread by people/ vermin/birds/insects. It is a very tough virus and can survive for many months in the environment.
Rabbits can be vaccinated against RHD2. As with many vaccines, vaccination does not guarantee 100% immunity to the virus. An annual vaccine called Filavac can be imported into the UK by veterinary wholesalers. It can be given from 10 weeks of age. Unfortunately, due to the high demand for this vaccine, the stock of this vaccine has become very limited in the UK. Pool House Veterinary Group have managed to source a small supply of this vaccine and would encourage clients to get their rabbits vaccinated and will administer the vaccine to patients on a first come, first served basis.
In the event that you are unable to receive a vaccine for your rabbit from us, we would advise you to contact other local veterinary practices, who we are aware may have larger stocks of the vaccine. In order to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, it is advised to move your pet rabbit(s) indoors where possible, avoid grazing on grass that may be accessible to wild rabbits, ensure protection against biting insects (fleas/flies) and for all house rabbit owners, ensure foot wear worn indoors is cleaned thoroughly. It is very difficult to totally remove the risk of exposure to this virus.
Please do not hesitate to contact the practice on 01543 262464 to book an appointment for vaccination or speak with one of our veterinary team should you have any further questions regarding RHD2.