Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Outbreak

March 15, 2018

There is currently an outbreak of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) type 2 in Nanaimo. The first cases were diagnosed at the beginning of March. A second outbreak has occurred last week and is confirmed to be RHD type 2. RHD is caused by a calicivirus. It is highly contagious and lethal in rabbits. This disease ONLY affects rabbits. There is no threat to humans and other animals including dogs and cats.

All rabbit owner should take precautions against this disease. Strict quarantine is recommended and ideally rabbits should be kept indoors if possible. This virus can be spread via direct contact with live or dead rabbits. Also fomites – including contaminated food, bedding water, and also insects, birds and mammals can transmit the virus long distances.

The incubation period for Type 2 disease is about 3-9 days. Symptoms of the disease include fever, anorexia, dullness, congestion, collapse and sudden death. The death rate is high with no cure available. Treatment consists of supportive care. Survivors of the disease may become carriers and shed the virus into the environment.

There are no vaccines available in Canada and USA. There are vaccines available in Europe for Type 1 and / or Type 2 stains. We have sourced out a vaccine that will treat Type 2 RHD in France. The procedure is to apply for an Emergency Drug Release from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This could take weeks to months for approval and shipment of the vaccine to Canada. The CFIA may or may not approve of the vaccine.

We have not applied for the Emergency Drug Release as we are awaiting the final results of DNA sequencing of the virus by the federal government. This will help determine if the vaccine will be effective or not.

The vaccine also has some side effects and may not prevent the disease but rather improve the chance of survival. So the best advice at this time is to have strict quarantine procedure. We have attached some information on the disease and quarantine procedures.