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**New Disease  Alert**

You may be aware of recent coverage in the media of a new strain of disease in rabbits – RHD2 (rabbit haemorrhagic disease, variant). There is no cure for this disease and it is often fatal. Until recent months there was no vaccination available in this country, however imports can now be acquired from France and we anticipate that the first delivery to Mercer and Hughes will be in January. East Anglia has been relatively untouched so far, and we have seen no cases at our surgeries., however with the increasing number of cases vaccination may soon become necessary. The Rabbit Welfare Association report that we can expect RHD2 to become more common than the original strain over the next five years.

RHD2 is caused by a virus similar to one we are already familiar with, which causes RHD (rabbit haemorrhagic disease, previously called VHD or viral haemorrhagic disease). Your rabbit may already be vaccinated against RHD (using Myxo-RHD) however that original vaccine is not effective against the new variant strain. The RHD2 strain was first identified in the UK in 2013 but has recently been spreading across the country, with cases being confirmed through post mortem testing.

Both variants of the RHD virus can be spread easily, as it can survive for long periods outside of the body and resists extended periods of temperatures up to 50ºC, meaning it can be spread on shoes/clothing and will survive washing machine cycles. Reportedly the virus can also be spread in the faeces of predators and scavengers that have eaten infected rabbits.

It is worth remembering that despite all the media coverage and concern over this new disease, that myxomatosis is still the most prevalent of viral rabbit diseases and is common in this area, and also that the original strain of RHD is still the most common of the two viral haemorrhagic diseases. It is therefore essential that your rabbit’s standard vaccination is up to date.

The standard myxomatosis & RHD1 vaccination can be given from 5 weeks of age, so can be done as soon as possible upon acquiring a new rabbit. The RHD2 vaccination can be given from 10 weeks of age, and in all ages should be given 2 weeks apart from other vaccinations. We would therefore suggest that in youngsters we give the Myxo-RHD vaccination between 5 and 8 weeks of age, then the RHD2 vaccination at 10 weeks of age. In adult rabbits the vaccinations can be given in any order, at any time, as long as the minimum gap of 2 weeks is left between the injections. Therefore, if your rabbit is up to date with their Myxo-RHD vaccine you will be able to book in for the RHD2 vaccination as soon as it becomes available. Boosters for both vaccines should be given annually.

If you would like to book in for RHD2 vaccination then phone any of our surgeries to express your interest, so that we can add your name to our waiting list. Equally, if you have any questions then give us a call. We are fortunate to be able to offer vaccination against RHD2 at a very low price of just £23.99 per rabbit, but booking will be essential as we cannot guarantee continuous supply of the vaccination due to high demand throughout the country.