Vaccine for highly contagious, fatal rabbit disease available in Singapore

The disease is transmitted between rabbits through direct contact with infected fluids, fur and carcasses. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

A vaccine for a highly contagious disease that is deadly to rabbits is now available in Singapore.

A cluster of 11 rabbits infected with rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) was detected here on Sept 16, and eight of them have died.

The disease's mortality rate is between 90 per cent and 100 per cent, but it is not transmissible from animals to people and does not affect other animal species.

It is transmitted between rabbits through direct contact with infected fluids, fur and carcasses. Transmission through insects and objects such as shoes, clothing and equipment has also been recorded.

No new cases of the disease have been detected since Sept 17, said the National Parks Board's Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) last Wednesday in response to queries from The Straits Times.

"The spread of the disease has been very limited within the community due to the vigilance of veterinarians and hygiene protocols implemented by stakeholders in the pet rabbit community," said Dr Chang Siow Foong, AVS group director of professional and scientific services.

The vaccine, Filavac VHD K, was made available in Singapore last Thursday, said veterinary clinic The Animal Doctors.

It costs between $86 and $110 for rabbits to get vaccinated.

The vaccine is administered as an injection and takes effect after seven days, but it will not work if the rabbit has already been infected with the virus.

Dr Sarah Wong, a vet at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre, urged rabbit owners to get their pets vaccinated.

"The virus is very contagious and can survive for about 100 days on various surfaces. It also has an extremely high fatality rate," she said.

Housewife Tracy Toh, 34, got her rabbit, a holland lop named Baby Candy, vaccinated two days ago.

"We wanted to get her vaccinated because her immune system is weaker (compared with) other rabbits. She had a bad bout of flu awhile back (and it) took six weeks (for her) to recover, so we didn't want to take any chances as RHD's mortality rate is very high," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2020, with the headline Vaccine for highly contagious, fatal rabbit disease available in Singapore. Subscribe