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22/07/2016, 17:00

Rabbit virus puts 1.2million pets at RISK of gruesome bloody deaths 

PET rabbits are dying from a new strain of a gruesome disease that leaves animals bleeding from their nose, mouth and other orifices.

Heartbroken pet owners have been told there are no authorised medicines to tackle the disease

Heartbroken pet owners have been told there are no authorised medicines to tackle the disease that has jumped the English Channel and claimed hundreds of animals in recent months.

There are fears that the way the new strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) is spreading that it will eventually become the dominant disease of its kind attacking both domestic and wild rabbits.

County rabbit shows have already had to be closed across parts of the country in recent weeks.

Experts are still unaware of how it is being spread, putting the countries 1.2 million pet bunnies at risk.

Flying insects could be carrying RHDV2 and what worries the veterinary profession is the way the virus does not kill its victims as quickly as the original haemorrhagic disease.

This means that infected animals could transmit the virus to numerous others before dying.

Clinical signs of the disease are bleeding from the external orifices – mouth, nose, anus and, in females, genitalia – and then rapid death.

In the new strain, some rabbits have also had gastric problems and bleeding under the skin.

Yet families who have suffered the loss of pets say the disease struck before they knew anything was wrong.

County rabbit shows have already had to be closed across parts of the country in recent weeks.

Chartered accountant Peter Smith, 47, from Morpeth, Northumberland, lost 10 rabbits in three days last autumn with no outward sight of anything wrong.

He explained: “I was in the kitchen, which isn’t too far from where our rabbits are kept, and I heard an almighty squeal. We rushed out and one of the rabbits was dead.”

Since spring, there have been reports of RHDV2 in Cheshire, Devon, Leicestershire, Shropshire, West Yorkshire and Worcestershire.

It is feared that some breeders have lost more than 100 rabbits each in recent months.

Officials at the Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate have warned there are no authorised treatments available and is telling vets to either prescribe other medicines or import a vaccine from other EU countries, such as Filavac VHD K C+V, Novarvilap and Cunipravac RHD Variant.

Experts are still unaware of how it is being spread, putting 1.2 million pet bunnies at risk

In the new strain, some rabbits have also had gastric problems and bleeding under the skin

At the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, veterinary advisor Richard Saunders says the most important measure to take is biosecurity.

“Domestic and wild rabbits are sources of the new virus, so preventing access of wild rabbits to the garden, and preventing the virus entering on other objects, alive or inanimate, is vital. 

“Take care collecting wild plants from areas which may be inhabited by wild rabbits, and of treading the virus back on feet after walks; consider footbaths and changes of footwear. 

“Quarantine all new arrival rabbits for at least 14 days. The virus may be transmitted via insect vectors such as flies so steps to avoid such contact should also be taken.

“If using environmental insecticides such as fly strips, sprays or the equivalent near rabbit accommodation, it is important that they are used well away from rabbit contact or access.”

The RWAF expert says although the disease was first noted in the UK in 2013 there has been a rise over the past few months.

“This probably reflects the fact that RVHD2 kills rabbits more slowly, giving the disease more time to spread than RVHD1 – which was more likely to kill rabbits before they could pass it on – and so it spreads faster and, in theory, should eventually become the main strain in the UK. 

http://www.express.co.uk

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