South Australian rabbit owners and breeders should be aware of the serious diseases that can affect their rabbits.

Rabbits can become infected with:

  • rabbit calicivirus strains, known as rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV):
    • RHDV1
    • RHDV2
  • Myxomatosis.

Flies and mosquitoes are the main transmitter of rabbit disease. Disease can also be spread through direct contact between rabbits, contaminated equipment and food.

RHDV2 calicivirus rabbit disease in South Australia

Domestic rabbit owners and breeders need to be on the lookout for a new strain of rabbit calicivirus - RHDV2 - following the confirmation of recent cases in South Australia.

RHDV does not pose a risk to human health and is not a notifiable livestock disease. The impact of RHDV2 on pet rabbits and rabbit farms is high and can cause death in young kittens (3-4 weeks) and a significant proportion of vaccinated adults.

This new virus is distinct from RHDV1 which was released in Australia in 1996 for the control of wild rabbits.

Locations of RHDV2 cases

RHDV2 was first reported in France in 2010 and has been found in numerous other European countries. It is not known how it reached Australian shores after it was first discovered in Canberra in May 2015, with recent cases now confirmed in South Australia.


While the current vaccine for rabbit calicivirus is protective against RHDV1 it is not fully protective against RHDV2. Nevertheless, keeping domestic or pet rabbits’ vaccinations up to date will provide the maximum possible protection against this new strain.

RHDV1 K5 calicivirus release

The national release of RHDV1 K5 occurred in March 2017. Early data from sites where the strain was released in South Australia has shown a subsequent reduction in wild rabbit populations of around 50%.

It’s important to remember that K5 is just one of a number of strategies aimed at helping landowners better manage the problem of wild rabbits. Get more information about the release in our pest animals section.

Disease prevention

To provide some protection against disease:

  • keep farmed and pet rabbits in insect proof enclosures as much as possible
  • control insects, especially flies and mosquitoes
  • minimise exposure between unknown rabbits
  • practice good hygiene after handling unknown rabbits
  • keep vaccinations up to date.

More information

Contact your local veterinary clinic or surgeon for information and advice on vaccinating your rabbits and rabbit health.

Page Last Reviewed: 26 Feb 2018
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