Rabbit virus release to improve biocontrol

Rabbit virus release to improve biocontrol

Posted: 02 March 2017

The long awaited release of the new strain of Calicivirus - or more correctly RHDV1 – K5, (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus) is imminent.

While there have been community conversations around this program for the past 2 years, the release dates have been uncertain as conditions need to be optimum to ensure success. The release date is now set for the 6th March 2017.

RHDV1K5 causes a fatal haemorrhagic disease in rabbits. It is specific to the European rabbit, and once a rabbit shows symptoms, death is rapid. There is no treatment or cure, however a vaccine for domestic and production rabbits is available.

This new strain supplements the RHDV1 strain released in 1996, which some rabbits in cool-wet regions have a natural protection against. RHDV1 K5 can overcome this protection, so it is likely that in these regions we will see an improvement in RHDV biocontrol.

The virus is spread by insect vectors (bushflies and blowflies), direct contact between a rabbit and a rabbit carcass with RHDV, and the movement of animals such as foxes, dogs and cats which eat infected rabbits.

Agriculture Victoria is coordinating the program in Victoria, with a number of release sites set up locally.

If you would like to know more, the Pest Smart website has a great deal of information http://www.pestsmart.org.au/boosting-rabbit-biocontrol-rhdv-k5-national-release/ or contact John Matthews from Agriculture Victoria john.matthews@ecodev.vic.gov.au