VHD is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) and also via indirect contact. Possible sources of indirect contact are people, clothing, contaminated hutches and bedding, as well as insect vectors such as fleas.  It is well established in British wild rabbits, so they too can spread the virus around the country.

VHD, which first appeared in Britain in 1992, is caused by a calicivirus and has an incubation period of just one to three days. The virus itself is very stable in the environment and can survive for up to 105 days.

Signs include depression, collapse, difficulty in breathing, convulsions, high body temperature, lethargy and bleeding from the nose and bottom. A few rabbits only get mildly ill and then recover. Death usually occurs within 12-36 hours after the onset of fever and the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100%.

VHD vaccination can be given from eight weeks onwards, but is usually given at 10-12 weeks. Boosters are given annually for VHD.


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