Over one million rabbits are estimated to be at risk of dying after contracting this deadly rabbit virus, experts warned. RVHD2’s fatality causes infected bunnies to die in no less than twenty-four hours after contracting this deadly rabbit disease.
RVHD2 is the latest strain of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease. It is produced by a new variant of the classic RVHD. The classic RVHD was first seen in China in 1984. It wiped out millions of rabbits and then spread its rabbit pelts in Europe.
RVHD2 was primarily discovered in France in 2010, and eventually swept throughout mainland Europe. It was later identified in the UK in 2013. It is more fatal than the classic RVHD since its incubation period lasts longer. Whilst RVHD2’s incubation period may last from one to four days, the classic RVHD can last from three to nine days.
RVHD2 spreading at an alarming rate
Although new to the UK, RVHD2 has already swept through the country at an aggressively alarming rate. It is believed to be the main cause of the sharp decline of wild rabbits. The virus is able to thrive in any type of environment for a long period of time even if it is exposed to different temperatures, and it is highly contagious.
A bunny may primarily contract this disease through direct contact with another infected rabbit. On the other hand, it can also be caused by indirect contact through urine or faeces, or the pet owner might carry the virus on their shoes or clothes and then come in contact with their pet rabbit. Lastly, insects carrying the virus may also transfer it through biting the rabbit.
Once a bunny contracts this disease, there is no available cure or treatment. Additionally, the affected animal carrying this disease scarcely displays any noticeable symptoms. The common rabbit virus symptoms are jaundice (yellowing of the skin), low appetite, lethargy, spasms, and sudden death. On extreme cases, when the inflicting virus reaches its final stages, the rabbit may bleed under its skin and other orifices, have clotting disorders, and eventually die. In a short span of twenty-four hours, the infected rabbit will die, barely showing any hint that it caught this bad rabbit virus.
Vets issue preventative measures
The alarming rabbit virus outbreak prompted vets to issue warnings and advice towards pet owners to prevent more rabbit deaths. Ian Clarke, a vet based in Worcester, declared, ‘This disease is very dangerous, and owners should be alerted on the outbreak.’ He highlighted the importance of bringing their pet bunnies to veterinary clinics for vaccination. It is the safest and most efficient course of action to inhibit the fatal rabbit virus from infecting pet bunnies. ‘Rabbits can catch RVHD2 and be dead within twenty-four hours—there is no cure, and that is why a vaccine is essential,’ Clarke says. He also added that a rabbit can be vaccinated thirty days after being born.
A 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report showed that 49 per cent of pet bunnies within the UK were not given a primary course of vaccination when they were still kittens. This means up to half a million rabbits are at risk in contracting not only RVHD2 but also other different possible fatal rabbit diseases.
Despite the possibility that the vaccine’s effectivity may never reach 100 per cent, it is the safest option than not having it done. Dr. Richard Saunders, who is one of UK’s leading rabbit specialists, added, ‘Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 1 and 2 kill a high proportion of the rabbits infected, often so quickly that there is no warning before finding them dead.’
The importance of vaccinating rabbits before any rabbit disease outbreak starts in the pet owner’s area was greatly stressed by Dr. Sanders. ‘These diseases can spread rapidly, and by the time there is an outbreak in your area and your rabbits aren’t vaccinated, it may be too late,’ he warned.
Other preemptive measures against RVHD2
Observing cleanliness and properly grooming the rabbits is another way for pet owners to prevent deadly rabbit diseases such as RVHD2 from infecting their pets. Pet owners should not only disinfect their pet bunnies’ hutches and toys but also their homes and items.
Before handling their rabbits, they must wash their hands thoroughly and disinfect. By doing so, it will wash off and eliminate any virus that might pose a threat to their rabbits. Owners should also decontaminate their footwear they use in going in and out of places where their rabbits are kept.
If there are any new additional rabbits, they must be kept away from the current ones for a minimum of two weeks. They must not share any items that are previously and currently used by the older ones.