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New calicivirus strain changes vaccine protocol.

The Department of Primary Industry has released a new variant of the calicivirus to control the feral rabbit population. The new virus, the Korean strain RHDV1 K5 is highly contagious and can be transmitted directly from rabbit to rabbit by contact, environment to rabbits (Such as cages, clothing etc) and by flies.

Owners of pet rabbits have to be extra vigilant to keep their rabbits protected from calicivirus. It is essential that there no contact between wild rabbits and pet rabbits and that pet rabbits are vaccinated.

Any pet rabbit that dies from calicivirus should be bagged and cremated to minimize the spread of the virus. A cremation service is available at the veterinary clinic.  Cages and equipment such as bowls, should thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed with a suitable disinfectant, such as Safe4 used against canine parvovirus. This is also available at the veterinary clinic.

Insect control is important, keeping rabbits inside or in insect proof cages, using fly screen mesh over the openings.

When collecting feed such as grass and hay, ensure that it comes from areas where there are no wild rabbits. There should be no rabbit droppings in the area.

Unvaccinated rabbits contracting calicivirus die in two to three days after being infected. The rabbits develop a temperature, become very pale (Anaemia), start fitting (Seizures) and die.

Vaccination has been shown scientifically to provide good protection against calicivirus and solid immunity occurs within 10 day from vaccination. However, with the new strain, vaccination protocols have been revised. Rabbits getting their initial vaccinations, need 2 vaccinations a month apart and then they should be vaccinated every 6 months in order to ensure good immunity. Kittens (Baby rabbits) should be vaccinated at 8 and 12 weeks and then every 6 months for life.