Likely cause of rabbit deaths established
Samples were taken from rabbit carcasses by scientists at MAST (the Food and Veterinary Authority) and tested at the University of Iceland’s Keldur laboratories. If true, it would be the first wild outbreak of the virus in Iceland. Over 50 dead rabbits have been found in Elliðaárdalur valley.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is extremely serious and very often fatal. It affected rabbits on farms and in people’s homes in south and southwest Iceland in 2002. Infection control then prevented the disease spreading further afield and to rabbits living wild.
Rabbit owners are asked to do some research into the virus so that they can understand how it spreads and protect their own rabbits from infection. The virus is only dangerous to rabbits and does not infect other animals, including humans.
The virus is transmitted through physical contact between rabbits, rabbit carcasses, or contact with infected surfaces including food, earth, and water. Other animals are not infected by the virus but can easily carry it on their hair, skin, clothes, or shoes.
Rabbits that catch the disease but make a recovery can remain infectious for a long time after returning to normal health, according to the MAST website.