There are several strains of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) in Australia. The strains that cause disease and, therefore those we need to be aware of, are RHDV1 (initially released in 1996), RHDV1 K5 variant and RHDV2 (first recorded in Australia in 2015).
These diseases are considered contagious and can be transmitted via direct contact with infected rabbits, infected equipment or clothing and insect vectors including flies.
The following additional precautions are advised to owners of pet rabbits and breeding stock;
- Prevent any contact between pet and feral rabbits
- Avoid cutting grass and feeding to your pet rabbit if there is a chance it could be contaminated by a feral rabbit
- Maintain a high level of hygiene when handling your pet rabbits
- An insect-proof hutch or keeping your pet rabbits inside is recommended to reduce the risk of insects introducing disease
- Quickly remove and address sick rabbits as they may be infected
- If infection is suspected, clean all equipment thoroughly using heavy grade disinfectants.
In March 2017, a national release of the K5 strain of RHDV occurred in an attempt to control the ever-increasing numbers of feral rabbits. An altered vaccination protocol using the current rabbit vaccine should give protection against the strain being released.
To adequately protect your pet rabbits, the Australian Veterinary Association recommends vaccinations at four, eight and 12 weeks of age, and then every six months.
For adult rabbits, two initial vaccinations one month apart and then every six months is recommended.