Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease -2 (RVHD-2)

What is the difference between RVHD-1 and RVHD-2? What is the current situation with vaccination against RVHD-2 in the UK?

RVHD-2 (Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease) was first discovered in France in 2010 , it spread through mainland Europe and was identified in the UK in 2013.

Differences between RVHD and RVHD-2

  • RVHD-2 affects rabbits of any age, unlike RVHD which is  very rarely seen in rabbits under the age of 8-10 weeks.
  • RVHD mortality rate is 100%, the mortality rate of RVHD-2 is 20-25%.
  • It has a longer and viable incubation period of 3 to 9 days in comparison to RVHD which has an incubation period between 24 and 72 hours.
  • Prolonged period of illness before death with RVHD-2. Death can occur as early as several hours from the rabbit displaying normal behaviours to up to 1 or 2 days with RVHD.
  • RVHD-2 symptoms don’t look as similar to RVHD as rabbits infected with the virus live longer.
  • Blood in the liver of a rabbit infected with RVHD-2 is not as developed or in fact absent, these changes are not typical of RVHD.
  • In some cases involving RVHD-2  bleeding under the skin has been noted.

For more information on RVHD follow this link.

Symptoms of RVHD-2

  • Not eating.
  • Bleeding under the skin.
  • Clotting disorders.
  • Signs of liver disease including: weight loss/ jaundice.
  • Bleeding from orifices.

Current situation in the UK

Since the initial paper there have been a number of laboratory confirmed cases of RVHD-2 from Dorset to East Anglia. Several small outbreaks have been confirmed, as well as a large outbreak at the end of 2015 following a large rabbit show. There have also been unconfirmed reports based on clinical suspicion to detailed post mortems. The true number of deaths by RVHD-2 is harder to ascertain as many pet rabbits do not get taken to vets regularly if at all and many deaths go unreported.

What does RVHD-2 mean for me as a rabbit owner?

  • The current Nobivak Myxo-RHD vaccination does not protect against RVHD-2 according to the manufacturer.
  • Future annual vaccinations will need to include both the Nobivak Myxo-RHD and Filavac to ensure protection from these fatal diseases.
  • RVHD is still the main strain in the UK.
  • Avoid taking your rabbits to any rabbit shows unless they have been vaccinated.
  • If you are introducing any new rabbits keep them quarantined for at least 2 weeks.

For UK readers here is a link to the Myxomatosis and RVHD map, detailing suspected and confirmed cases of Myxomatosis, RVHD and RVHD-2.

Update 26/10/2016:

“The following notice was communicated by the laboratory in Scotland which has been testing samples from rabbits suspected to have died from RHD2. It confirms that the disease is now present in the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland. We (The RWAF) have not arranged import of RHD2 vaccines into the Republic of Ireland as it requires a different process to that in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but are happy to discuss and offer any assistance to a ROI vet who wishes to do this. We would like to inform colleagues that we have reached a positive diagnosis (confirmed by sequencing) of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus variant strain 2 (RVHD-2) infection in a wild rabbit from the Isle of Man and in 3 pet rabbits from the Republic of Ireland. The pet rabbits had been vaccinated against the classical RVHD-1 within 3 months of succumbing to RVHD-2 infection. We believe these are the 1st cases confirmed in the corresponding regions. Veterinary practitioners should alert owners to the possible risks of this disease to their rabbits and the requirement for the rapid instigation of biosecurity
measures in any suspected cases.We do not know the circumstances under which the rabbits contracted the disease. However, considering the increasing number of cases reported throughout the UK these findings are not entirely surprising. RVHD (classical and type 2) is environmentally resistant and transmitted readily through direct contact or via contaminated material (such as, urine and faeces of infected animals, contaminated hay, straw, feeding bowls, and handlers’ clothing), the faeces of predators (foxes, crows) and can also be carried by insects. In addition, RVHD is resistant to all but large temperature changes; therefore, washing handlers’ clothes on low temperature washing machine cycles is not effective.”The above information was taken from RWAF First Alerts Newsletter

Update 01/01/2016:

There are three wholesalers that are supplying the Filavac vaccination to UK vets with an import license those include: NVS, Centaur/ Harry Schein and directly from Filavie (French manufacturer of  Filavac).  The RWAF are recommending at least a two week period between vaccinating with Nobivac and Filavac. Areas that are high risk are recommended to include a 6 monthly booster vaccination, high risks are thought to include; breeding does, rescue centres, breeders (unless strict quarantine guidelines are in place), those with greater contact with wild rabbits and geographical locations with recent out breaks. Please confirm this with your vet.

Information taken from RWAF June newsletter.

Update 27/05/2016:

The following statement has been released by the RWAF:

“We are pleased to announce that after long discussions with Filavie, a vaccine manufacturer in France, and NVS, a Veterinary Wholesalers in the UK, we will very shortly have, for sale in the UK, a vaccine against RHD2. This also covers RHD1. The full order should be in stock from Mid June, with relatively small amounts available before then. Please ask your vet to contact NVS to discuss exact anticipated stock arrival dates and to assist them with some idea of expected demand.
You still need to vaccinate your rabbits with Nobivac as previously, please discuss this with your vet.
We are enormously grateful to our wonderful Vet Dr Richard Saunders for doing the necessary research and negotiation with the manufactuer, then arranging the necessary import paperwork , and then liasing with NVS in order for them to be able to supply it. On behalf of Bunnies everywhere we thank you Richard!”

Update 09/05/2016:

Taken from the RWAF magazine “Rabbiting On”:  “We have just been told that our application for another RHD2 vaccine has been successful. Cunipravac RHD Variant now has a Special Treatment Certificate and we will be contacting vets on our list with full details.”

Update 27/04/2016:

The RWAF are currently going through the process of obtaining a permit to import the following vaccination: Filavac. This vaccination is currently licensed for use in France and is believed to be the most effective vaccination against RVHD-2. It is hoped that this vaccination will be available in 5 to 10 dose vials by May this year.


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