In March 2017, RHDV1 K5 which is a variant of Calicivirus that causes a fatal haemorrhagic disease in rabbits was released in Australia. It assists in the management of pests (European Rabbit Oryctolagus Cuniculus).
A vaccine (Cylap®) is available, to help protect pet rabbits from the various strains of Calicivirus.
Precautions for rabbit owners
If you own a pet rabbit you should take the following precautions:
- Prevent direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
- Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
- Wash hands, with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
- Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risks of introduction of both RHDV and Mymatosis. Insect control could include insect proofing the hutch or keeping pet rabbits indoors.
- Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.
- All cages and equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Disinfectants that can be used to decontaminate any equipment include 10 per cent bleach, 10 per cent sodium hydroxide, or parvocide disinfectants.
The vaccine is considered effective as RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus; it is a Korean variant of the existing (Czech) virus already widespread in Australia.
The current vaccine for rabbit calcivirus (Cylap RCD) is not fully protective against RHDDV2. However, there is evidence of some cross protection between type one and type two of the virus. Keeping domestic or pet rabbit vaccinations up to date is recommended to provide the maximum possible protection against this new strain.
Current vaccination recommendations for domestic rabbits
The Australian Veterinary Association recommends regular vaccination. For the RHDV1,1A and RHDV1-K5 viruses annual vaccination is recommended. For the variant that emerged in parts of Australia in 2015 called RHDV2 there is no specific vaccination available in Australia. The Australian Veterinary Association suggests protocols that should be followed in consultation with your local veterinarian.