Victorian owners of pet rabbits and commercial rabbit farmers have been reminded to make sure the animals’ vaccinations are up-to-date ahead of the national release of the new variant of calicivirus, RHDV1 K5.
Victoria’s acting chief veterinary officer Dr Cameron Bell said the current calicivirus vaccine, administered by vets, was expected to provide good protection of pet rabbits against all strains of the RHDV1 virus, including the RHDV1 K5 strain.
‘‘RHDV1 K5 is a variant of the existing virus which is already established and widespread across Australia.
‘‘As part of the nationally co-ordinated release, land owners working with Agriculture Victoria will release RHDV1 K5 at 150 sites across Victoria from March 1,’’ he said.
Rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing $200million in lost agricultural production every year, with a further $6million expended on rabbit control measures.
‘‘Pest rabbits are not only a regional issue. Rabbits do occur in urban environments, such as sports grounds, within parklands, along railway tracks and in urban remnant bushland areas.’’
The Threat Abatement Plan released by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy in January found that pest rabbits are a significant threat to biodiversity, affecting 304 nationally threatened plant and animal species.
Dr Bell said to help prevent domestic rabbits from becoming infected with RHDV1 K5, pet owners should consult their veterinarian.
The Australian Veterinary Association has advised that pet rabbit owners can minimise risk by:
■Preventing direct and indirect contact between domestic/pet and pest rabbits;
■Avoiding cutting grass where pest rabbits may be foraging and feeding it to pet rabbits;
■Protecting pet rabbits from insects to reduce the risks of introducing RHDV1 K5; this could include insect-proofing the hutch and keeping pet rabbits indoors;
■Washing their hands with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
■For more information visit www.ava.com.au/rabbit-calicivirus or go.vic.gov.au/o7qyUb