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Vet Pathol. 2008 May;45(3):369-74. doi: 10.1354/vp.45-3-369.

An outbreak of fatal herpesvirus infection in domestic rabbits in Alaska.

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  • 1Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Magruder 105, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


A herpesvirus infection affecting mini Rex and crossbred meat rabbits was identified in a rabbitry in Alaska. Illness affected over half of the 55 rabbits on the premises, and 16 rabbits died or were euthanatized because of illness. Disease affected all ages from adults to nursing young and occurred over an approximately 2-month period. Clinical signs included conjunctivitis and periocular swelling, ulcerative dermatitis, progressive weakness, anorexia, respiratory distress, and abortion. Hemorrhagic dermatitis and panniculitis were associated with epidermal microvesicular degeneration, dermal and subcutaneous vascular necrosis, and thrombosis. Eosinophilic intranuclear inclusions consistent with herpesvirus were found within the epidermis and superficial follicular epithelium and within mesenchymal cells within the dermis and subcutis. Syncytial cells containing viral inclusions occurred within the epidermal and superficial follicular epithelium. Other findings were hemorrhagic necrosis of the myocardium with rare intranuclear inclusions within stromal cells, multifocal pulmonary hemorrhage, hemorrhage with sinus erythrophagocytosis in lymph nodes, and massive necrosis and fibrin deposition within red pulp of the spleen. A virus isolated from the skin produced syncytia, intranuclear inclusions, and cell lysis typical of herpesvirus in rabbit kidney cells in vitro. The viral isolate was characterized ultrastructurally as an enveloped virus with icosahedral nucleocapsids 100 nm diameter, consistent with a herpesvirus.

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