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Laboratory tests have confirmed on Monday evening that there is a strain of European Calicivirus in the ACT.  RSPCA ACT has been working with the ACT Government and vaccine manufacturers since late last week after a number of rabbits in their care died from what appeared to be calicivirus.

RSPCA ACT Director of Animal Welfare Jane Gregor stated, “After two of our baby rabbits died last week, we didn’t think much of it since they were more susceptible to diseases at that age.  However, once some unrelated adult rabbits also died that were vaccinated against the known strain of calcivirus, we became suspicious.”

It appears the current strain (RHDV2) was an accidental released from an European origin, but no one is sure how it was released.  RHDV2 has not been tested for vaccine efficacy yet. 

At the moment, RSPCA ACT has revaccinated all of its rabbits in care using the current vaccine hoping that a double dosage might be useful.  They have also referred any public vet appointments for rabbits to other vet clinics in the meantime.

Calicivirus is spread through fomites, such as clothing, the bottom of shoes, bedding, cages, feed, water, flies, rabbit fleas, or mosquitos. It is easily transferred through touch, which makes it nearly impossible to contain.  Ms Gregor explained the difficulty, “Even a bird walking through a contaminated area can spread it everywhere. In the meantime, we will continue to work with the vaccine companies to trial various drug regimes that may help fight the spread to further rabbits. We encourage others to do the same.” 

Individuals requiring more information about calicivirus should contact their local vet.  Disease control enquiries should be directed to the ACT Government veterinarian or Territory and Municipal Services.

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