Essential Pest Solutions

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV)


Biological control RHDV1 Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), previously known as rabbit calicivirus, has been used as a biocontrol for rabbits in Australia since 1996.

The first strain came from the Czech Republic, and it was extremely effective, knocking down 90 per cent of the pest rabbit population in some parts of Australia.

Point to note about biocontrol:

• RHDV1 and myxomatosis alone will not provide effective rabbit control.

• Biocontrol options must be used in conjunction with traditional control methods. 

• Susceptible rabbits exposed to RHD and myxomatosis are likely to die. However, some exposed rabbits will live a full life and breed as normal.

In planning your control program, please let Essential Pest Control know.

Why RHDV is a good control tool.

Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a highly contagious disease caused by a calicivirus that affects only rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species. This includes wild and domesticated European rabbits, from which our own wild and domesticated rabbits are descended.. RHDV is also known by several other acronyms: RHD (Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease), RCV (Rabbit Calicivirus), and RCD (Rabbit Calicivirus Disease). VHD was first seen in China in 1984, and has since been introduced to Mexico, Continental Europe, Israel, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Lethargy 

  • High Fever 

  • Spasms 

  • Sudden death

VHD, however, is often a very swift and sudden killer, giving little warning. Rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all. The incubation period of this disease is very short, and rabbits may die within 48 hours of exposure to the virus that causes RHDV. 

  • The death rate of rabbits exposed to this virus is very high, between 50 and 100%, with the latter number probably being closer to actual mortality rates. Rabbits who survive this disease are carriers and shed the virus for at least 42 days, perhaps longer. 

  • Rabbit calicivirus is a very hardy virus, remaining viable in the environment for 105 days at 20C (i.e. remains stable for 105 days at room temperature) and for 225 days at 4C and it resists freezing.

How VHD is spread?

RHDV is highly contagious. It can be spread by:
  • Flying insects like the Australian Bush Fly, Black House Flies, Blow Flies and mosquitoes 

  • Contact of a rabbit with inanimate objects contaminated by the virus (i.e. via fomites). Such object would include clothing, shoes, and car and truck tires. 

  • Direct contact of a rabbit with an infected rabbit or the feces of an infected rabbit.  Contact with rabbit products such as fur, meat or wool from infected rabbits. 

  • Insects, birds, and animals such as rodents are known to spread the virus by acting as indirect hosts. They can transport the disease, for example, from an infected rabbit to an unaffected rabbit.

What Can Essential Pest Solutions do to Introduce this to your site?

  • We have developed several standard operating procedures that we can work to depending on geographic areas and site requirements.
  • We expect between 50% and 95% control on your site.
  • There is no risk at all to native off targets, pets or humans

Call us for more information on 0438 422 580

Managing rabbits on your property:

• Effective rabbit control is achieved by using a combination of control measures, not just one. There is no quick-fix solution.

• One rabbit is one too many. Leaving a pair of rabbits or just one burrow will lead to re-infestation undermining your control work and investment.

Planning your program:

Planning can maximise the effectiveness of rabbit control while minimising damage to other animals. Essential Pest Control will consider rabbit density, distribution, and habitat as this will determine what actions are appropriate.

The following steps will help when planning.

Work together:

Coordinate control work with your neighbours. The best results are achieved where neighbours conduct simultaneous rabbit control across a landscape rather than on individual properties. Work on your property can be undermined by the inactivity of your neighbours. So, talk to your neighbours to work out a coordinated plan.

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