Photo: W Daigneault | Unsplash

The Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), has confirmed the first detection of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in local pet rabbits on 16 September 2020.

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.

According to the news release issued by National Parks Board (NParks), the virus that causes RHD was detected in samples from pet rabbits submitted by a veterinary clinic. So far some 11 rabbits have been affected, and eight have since succumbed to the disease.

Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, and AVS (a cluster of NParks), will also be working with veterinary clinics and distributors on importing and registering vaccines for RHD.

While the risk of RHD is low for rabbits that are kept indoors or away from rabbits from other households, pet owners should:

* Minimise contact between their pet rabbits with visitors and other rabbits.

* 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 RHD

While RHD is a highly contagious, acute and fatal disease of rabbits, it does not pose a health risk to people.

The virus is transmitted between rabbits through direct contact with infected fluids, fur, carcasses, etc. Transmission via fomites (eg: 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 is between one to five days and signs to look out for 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 such signs develop. Supportive care can be provided for infected rabbits, but there is no specific treatment available for RHD.

It is a notifiable animal disease in Singapore and to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). All suspect cases must be reported to AVS.