An epidemiological study of the spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus amongst previously non-exposed rabbit populations in the North Island of New Zealand.
ABSTRACT To monitor the initial releases of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) into previously unexposed rabbit populations in the North Island of New Zealand.
The study programme consisted of pre-release spotlight counts of rabbits on the study farms, pre-release serological samples to check for prior exposure to RHDV, a farmer-completed questionnaire and post-release spotlight counts to measure any change in rabbit numbers following the release of RHDV. In total, 23 sites within the lower North Island where RHDV was released during the period November 1997 to June 1998, were monitored. The most common release method involved the spreading of chopped carrot bait laced with a solution of virus-infected material obtained from dead rabbits.
Eighty percent of farmers thought that the disease had spread away from the release sites to areas where virus had not been liberated, although only 27% reported finding dead rabbits more than 300 m away from release locations. Seventy-three percent of farmers were satisfied with the overall effectiveness of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) as a means of reducing rabbit numbers, but 56% indicated they would modify the way they released the virus in the future. Average pre-release night spotlight counts per property ranged from 2.2 rabbits/km to 36.9 rabbits/km, the median being 12.8 rabbits/km. The time interval from initial release to when the first dead rabbit was seen which the farmer believed to have died from RHD varied from 3 to 21 days, the mean being 7.4 days and the median 7 days. The median change in night spotlight counts per site at 3 weeks after release, expressed as a percentage relative to pre-release counts, was -15.5% (range +18.9% to -76.9%) and at 6 weeks was -49.7% (range 0% to -76.9%). The time of the estimated peak of the disease epidemic ranged from 1 to 7 weeks after release of RHDV, the mean being 3.1 and the median 3 weeks.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease reduced rabbit numbers on the majority of farms where the virus was released, and appears to be an effective measure for controlling rabbit populations in New Zealand.
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ABSTRACT: The complete nucleotide sequence of the Czech strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) was determined to be 7437 nucleotides in length with a 5-terminal non-coding region of 9 nucleotides and a 3'-terminal non-coding region of 59 nucleotides. Two open reading frames (ORFs) were found within this sequence coding for polypeptides of 2344 (nucleotides 10-7044) and 117 amino acids (nucleotides 7025-7378). The sequence of this isolate was approximately 1% different from that reported by Meyers et al., having 78 nucleotide changes which resulted in 30 amino acid differences, the majority of these clustering in the N-terminus of the large ORF and the middle of the viral coat protein. Only a single conservative amino acid change was seen in the smaller 3'-terminal ORF. Since the virus cannot at present be propagated in tissue culture, but isolated only after replication in rabbits, the reported sequence must be considered as a consensus sequence from the viral population. To gain some understanding of the possible sequence diversity within this virus population, 97 clones were sequenced from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) fragment to determine the sequence diversity of the virus population. Four major classes of variant were described with mutations generally in the third base position of codons. A nested reverse transcriptase (RT) PCR (using sequence derived for the coat protein of RHDV) was used to determine the presence or absence of RHDV inoculated into non-host animal species. No replication of the virus was detected in 28 different vertebrate species other than rabbits. PCR tests on both mosquitoes and fleas feeding on RHDV infected rabbits were positive. The RT-PCR test was more sensitive when compared with an antigen capture ELISA to detect the presence of genomic RNA/or virus in infected rabbits.Virus Research 02/1997; 47(1):7-17. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: To determine what factors governed the extent of outbreaks of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) following releases in New South Wales. Retrospective cross-sectional study. Information from the data set of official releases was subjected to two preliminary analyses. More comprehensive information on a subsample of official RHD releases, sites and animals was gathered by telephone survey of Rural Lands Protection Board staff and farmers. Data were analysed using multivariate techniques to determine which factors were associated with rabbit mortality within one month of RHDV release, within several months of release and in affecting the proportion of the population killed. A strong association was found between the presence of heavy flea infestation (odds ratio 2.7), breeding in rabbits and outbreaks of RHD. For each week following breeding there was an 8% decline in the odds of an outbreak. Low temperatures also promoted outbreaks. Less important effects included the prior presence of RHD at the release site, which reduced the likelihood and severity of outbreaks. The presence of cattle and proximity to the nearest water body were associated with increased severity and likelihood of outbreaks respectively. Both breeding of rabbits and associated high flea numbers may act together or independently in promoting outbreaks of RHD. Stresses involved with rabbit reproduction and low environmental temperatures also appear to influence the likelihood of outbreaks. The effects of proximity to cattle and water suggests that both flies and mosquitoes may have a minor role in local transmission.Australian Veterinary Journal 06/1999; 77(5):322-8. · 0.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) was illegally released in New Zealand in August 1997. The initial release and spread of the virus was conducted by landholders in an effort to reduce costs associated with more conventional control methods (poisoning and shooting). Serum was collected from wild rabbits throughout the Otago region prior to the release and from 13 sites in the months following the first epizootic. Following the occurrence of the first RHDV epizootic on 13 pastoral farming properties a range of survival rates was found. The major factor influencing the survival rate was found to be the method of release, with widespread use of carrot or oat baits containing RHDV resulting in poor kills. Widespread use of baits also resulted in higher levels of antibody in surviving adult rabbits with a higher proportion of adult females surviving the epizootic, compared with properties where the disease was allowed to spread naturally. A correlation was found between survival rate and the percentage of surviving adults with high levels of antibody. These results suggest that poor kill rates are not due to poor spread of the virus, that the large-scale use of baits resulted in protective immunisation and that rabbit control should in the future be achieved through establishing naturally spreading epidemics rather than widespread use of baits.Veterinary Microbiology 04/1999; 66(1):29-40. · 3.13 Impact Factor