APVMA approves emergency permit for RHDV2 (calicivirus) vaccine for rabbits

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has approved an emergency permit (PER92219) for a vaccine to protect pet rabbits against the rabbit haemorrhagic disease (calicivirus) virus type 2 strain (RHDV2).

The emergency permit for the Filavac VHD K C+V vaccine is in force until 31 May 2024 and provides for the active immunisation of pet rabbits from 10 weeks of age to reduce mortality rates caused by the RHDV2 and RHDV1 (classical) virus strains. 

The manufacturer of Filavac VHD K C+V, FILAVIE, has submitted an application for registration of the vaccine, which is currently under assessment by the APVMA. The vaccine has a current Marketing Authorisation in Europe with an approved onset of immunity of one week and a duration of immunity of one year. Under the conditions of the emergency permit, the vaccine will be supplied in Australia through Ceva Animal Health Pty Ltd.

What is the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus?

The rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) typically causes a rapidly fatal disease in wild rabbits. There are 2 strains of RHDV present in Australia – RHDV1 and RHDV2.

What are the RHDV1 and RHDV2 strains?

The RHDV1 strain of RHDV was first released in Australia in 1996 as a biocontrol measure against wild rabbits.

RHDV2 is a new strain of the virus that was first reported in Europe in 2010 and then in Australia in 2015. This RHDV2 strain was not released in Australia by any government department and it is not known how the virus entered the country.

How do the RHDV1 and RHDV2 strains affect rabbits?

RHDV causes acute liver damage in rabbits with death occurring as a result of liver necrosis and/or internal haemorrhages. RHDV has a short incubation period of between one to 3 days and death can occur rapidly.

Symptoms of RHDV1 and RHDV2 include high temperatures (>40°C), anorexia and lethargy, and jaundice may be observed in the eyes and on the ears. The RHDV2 strain can affect rabbits of all ages and is currently the strain with the highest mortality rate in pet rabbits.

Are there any other registered vaccines available to control RHDV1 and RHDV2?

Cylap RCD Rabbit Vaccine (APVMA approval number 49682) has been registered by the APVMA for the control of RHDV1 in pet rabbits since 1999.

As the Cylap RCD Rabbit Vaccine was registered before the RHDV2 strain was identified in Australia, the level of protection afforded by this vaccine against RHDV2 has not been established.

Filavac VHD K C+V is the only vaccine approved by the APVMA (under emergency permit) for protection in pet rabbits against both the RHDV1 and RHDV2 strains.

How do I get my rabbit vaccinated against RHDV?

Owners should discuss the vaccination of rabbits against RHDV with their veterinarian.

What should I do if I think my rabbit has RHDV?

The APVMA recommends that owners should, in the first instance, consult their veterinarian if they have concerns regarding the health of their pet rabbit.

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