New Rabbit Virus to be introduced into NZ

4 months ago

As you may be aware, a new strain of Rabbit Calicivirus has been approved for release in NZ (date yet to be determined)

Rabbit calici virus causes sudden death in unvaccinated animals due principally to internal bleeding and shock.

The important question is, does the current Cylap vaccine protect domestic rabbits against the new virus? In a test, the mortality of a small number of vaccinated and unvaccinated rabbits that were infected with a high dose of the new virus thirty days post vaccination was looked at. All of the rabbits that were vaccinated with Cylap® survived the infection and none of the unvaccinated rabbits survived. Based on this study the indications are that Cylap® will provide protection against the new virus.

Rabbits at risk of exposure to the new virus should be vaccinated with Cylap® (off-label protocol) and kept up-to-date. The Melbourne Rabbit Clinic’s (Australia’s first dedicated rabbit and guinea pig clinic) recommendation for Cylap® administration to protect against the new virus is:


1.    Vaccinate at 10-12 weeks
2.    Booster at 14-16 weeks (off-label)
3.    Booster 12 monthly (ongoing). 
The off-label component is the addition of one extra vaccination 4 weeks after the initial vaccination. Off-label use of the vaccination should only be done with consent from the owner.

In all instances vaccination should be administered to healthy animals, and a risk/benefit discussion with each owner is strongly recommended. Adverse events include skin reactions, inappetence and malaise, and should be notified.

2. Measures to help control the spread of the virus

  1. Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread.
  2. Remove uneaten food on a daily basis.
  3. Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible.
  4. Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits.
  5. Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide. 10minutes contact times is required, then rinse off.
  6. Limit contact with and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits.
  7. Use good biosecurity measures (e.g. wash hands, shoes and clothing) after handling other people’s rabbits.
  8. Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
  9. Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.

Thanks to NZVA for permission to reproduce this information(edited and abridged)