Fatal disease affecting rabbits detected in Singapore: AVS

Fatal disease affecting rabbits detected in Singapore: AVS

Pet rabbit
A pet rabbit in Singapore. (File photo: Vera Ang)

SINGAPORE: A fatal disease that primarily affects rabbits has been detected in Singapore, said the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) on Thursday (Sep 17).

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) is highly contagious, acute and fatal, although it is not zoonotic and does not affect humans or other animal species, added AVS, which is a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks).

A news release published on the NParks website stated that the virus that causes RHD was detected on Wednesday through samples from pet rabbits submitted by a veterinary clinic. 

Investigations showed there may be up to 11 affected rabbits in the cluster, eight of which have died. 

None of the cases are known to have a travel history. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing.

AVS said it will work with veterinary clinics and distributors on the import and registration of vaccines for RHD.

"We have engaged stakeholders such as veterinarians, the relevant animal welfare groups and pet establishments to share information and advisories on RHD. 

"Stakeholders are advised to put in place strict biosecurity protocols to minimise risk of disease transmission between rabbits from different households, including sanitation, disinfection and isolation areas, and to report any suspect cases to AVS."

Pet owners are advised to:

  • Minimise contact between their pet rabbits with visitors and other rabbits, especially if you are not aware of their health status
  • 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


RHD is not zoonotic and does not pose a health risk to humans. 

Its incubation period is between one to five days. Clinical signs may 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 clinical signs develop. 

Supportive care can be provided for infected rabbits, but there is no specific treatment available for RHD.

RHD has been reported in some countries around the world, like Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and parts of Asia in both domestic and wild rabbit populations. 

It is a notifiable animal disease in Singapore - one that must be reported to agricultural authorities - and to the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

Source: CNA/ic(hs)