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26 May 1998
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is repeating advice to pet rabbit owners who are concerned about the possibility of their pets contracting rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) to have them vaccinated.
The reminder follows the confirmed death from RCD of a pet rabbit on a property in the Wellington residential suburb of Vogeltown. Five other rabbits on the same property are also suspected to have died from the virus.
Possible sources of infection are contaminated feed or hay, humans carrying the virus on clothing or shoes, or insect vectors. Direct contact with an RCD-infected rabbit is not required to spread the virus.
Vaccinations are available through registered veterinarians. Rabbits are immunised at about two and a half to three months of age. If they are under two and a half months of age, they should be revaccinated every three weeks until they reach three months. In all other cases a single dose is given. The timing of vaccination is critical because maternal antibodies, which are passed on by mothers to their young, confer temporary immunity, but can inactivate the vaccine. At two and a half to three months, most of the maternal antibodies in young rabbits have disappeared.
Healthy animals over three months may have lifelong immunity, but an annual booster is also recommended.
Rabbit owners can also take other steps to help minimise the risk of spread to their pets, such as using appropriate insect mesh around hutches. Insect strips or repellents are also a good idea. They should also eliminate contact with outside rabbits, avoid contact with other peoples' rabbits or hutches, not share equipment with other rabbit owners and decontaminate any equipment which is in doubt using bleach or strong disinfectants, and not use feed that may have been in contact with other wild or domestic rabbits.
Care should be taken when introducing new rabbits to a property to ensure they are not carrying the virus.
Media inquiries to:
Debbie Gee, Manager, Corporate Communications, (04) 474 4258