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Detection of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

17 Sep 2020

The Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks), has confirmed the first detection of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in local pet rabbits on 16 September. RHD primarily affects rabbits and is a highly contagious, acute and fatal disease. However, it is not zoonotic and does not affect humans, or other animal species.

The virus that causes RHD was detected in samples from pet rabbits submitted by a veterinary clinic. Based on investigations so far, there may be up to 11 affected rabbits in the cluster and eight have died. None of the cases are known to have a travel history. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing. AVS will also be working with veterinary clinics and distributors on importing and registering vaccines for RHD.

We have engaged stakeholders such as veterinarians, and the relevant Animal Welfare Groups, and pet establishments to share information and advisories on RHD. Stakeholders are advised to put in place strict biosecurity protocols to minimise risk of disease transmission between rabbits from different households, including sanitation, disinfection and isolation areas, and to report any suspect cases to AVS.

Advisory for pet owners

The risk of RHD is low for rabbits that are housed indoors with minimal exposure outdoors and to rabbits from other households.

Pet owners are advised to:

  • Minimise contact between their pet rabbits with visitors and other rabbits, especially if you are not aware of their health status;
  • Practise good personal hygiene, such as washing their hands with soap before and after being in contact with their pets or other animals;
  • Keep the housing and environment of the rabbits clean, as the virus can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, and via insects such as flies;
  • Bring their pets for veterinary treatment, if they observe their pets to be unwell. 

About Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) 

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious, acute and fatal disease of rabbits. It is not zoonotic, and does not pose a health risk to humans.

The virus that causes RHD is transmitted between rabbits through direct contact with infected fluids, fur, carcasses, etc. Transmission via fomites (e.g. shoes, clothing, equipment), flies and other insects have also been recorded. Surviving rabbits can continue to shed the virus for at least a month after they recover.

The incubation period of RHD is between one to five days. Clinical signs may include anorexia, dullness, prostration, nervous signs, groans and cries, or respiratory signs such as breathing difficulties or discharge from the nose. Death may occur within 12 to 36 hours once clinical signs develop. Supportive care can be provided for infected rabbits, but there is no specific treatment available for RHD.

RHD has been reported in some countries around the world (e.g. Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, parts of Asia) in both domestic and wild rabbit populations. It is a notifiable animal disease in Singapore and to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). All suspect cases must be reported to AVS. 
Last updated on 06 April 2021

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