I have been putting off posting about this because it is so painful but we have had an outbreak of RHD at the Sanctuary and have lost a number of rabbits, predominantly from the New Zealand Whites that we took in in July. It was a horrific experience. The worry for the remaining rabbits who were unvaccinated due to health problems or age was dreadful while we waited until the vaccines we gave as soon as we realised the disease was on site could take effect. Now I am reasonably sure they are all immune I am feeling the loss of the ones who got it even more.
I don’t feel up to saying much more at present but I will at some point. The disease did not behave the way I would have expected except among the New Zealand Whites. I think they must be particularly susceptible to it, after all it developed in farmed rabbits in China. None of our older unvaccinated rabbits caught it except those living with the first New Zealand White to contract it. The only other rabbit to catch it was our newest arrival. Which suggests a sort of herd resistance if not immunity. In hindsight I think I was right that RHD was what killed Rosie and Poppy this spring. I had concluded that I was wrong about that because no other rabbits died despite there being so many we didn’t vaccinate. What I don’t know is whether this was a separate outbreak or a continuation of the first reignited by the change in the weather or something. I have ended up saying more than I meant to for now. It keeps going round and round in my head…
The good news is that none of the long termers died despite many being unvaccinated. Nor did Red Currant or any of her litter despite being separated only by wire from the Berry Boys on one side who all died and Strawberry and her litter who all died except for Frost and Crystal on the other. We also lost Bigwig and Cherry and both her companions, Margarite and Jolly, and our most recent arrival Clementine. These were living outside among the general population. Bigwig’s companions were already vaccinated as they were healthy as were Clementine’s and they are fine.
No one who has any contact with unvaccinated rabbits should visit here for at least the remainder of this winter. We won’t be taking in new rabbits or doing rabbit boarding for quite some time nor health checks etc. Even vaccinated rabbits are not 100% safe as the manufacturer only claims a 90% rate of immunity so given it is definitely in the environment we had best err on the side of caution as exposure to a heavy virus load can even overwhelm resistant rabbits. Disinfecting the entire site is completely impossible although we have done our best in the areas where the affected rabbits were living.