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Lab Anim. 1997 Jan;31(1):33-44.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease: the new scourge of Oryctolagus cuniculus.

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  • 1Department of Virology, Central Veterinary Laboratory, Addlestone, Surrey, UK.


A new, widespread and important disease of rabbits, rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), is concisely reviewed and discussed. RHD is an acute, infectious condition of adult rabbits and morbidity and mortality, after a relatively short incubation period, can be very high. The disease appears typically as a necrotizing hepatitis with associated haemorrhaging, and death occurs as a result of generalized organ dysfunction. RHD is caused by a calicivirus, antigenically related to a similar virus found in brown hares but distinct from other known caliciviruses, and is spread to susceptible rabbits by a number of routes and vectors. The disease is easily identified and can be effectively controlled in commercial and domestic rabbit populations by slaughter and vaccination regimes. The occurrence of pre-existing cross-reacting antibody in a proportion of rabbits unchallenged by the disease implies the presence of non-pathogenic strains of the virus. This antibody protects against disease on subsequent exposure to RHD. Uniquely, pre-existing antibody does not occur in rabbits in Australia where, after accidental release, the virus is currently spreading rapidly.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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