Rabbit owners warned over deadly virus

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Rabbit owners are being warned of a highly contagious virus which kills within days and has no UK vaccine.

More than 400 rabbits are thought have died in the last six months from a strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD2) that is new to Britain. However some believe that many more unexplained rabbit deaths could have been caused by the disease.

In total, up to 2,000 rabbits could have been affected.

The virus, which affects both domestic and wild rabbits, spreads via animals, people and bedding, such as hay. It is almost symptomless.

The only vaccines that work have to be imported from France and Spain. It is thought that the disease could spread in the warmer weather.

Richard Saunders, a veterinary expert at the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, said that about 1.3 million unprotected rabbits were at risk in the UK.

“Unfortunately, a lot of vets are still saying they have never seen it, or that they don’t see it as necessary to vaccinate, as they often underestimate the worth of the rabbit,” he said.