[16 April/Rural Life]

Tests from samples in Otago indicated deaths have been occurring since the release of the RHDV1 K5 virus. The Otago Regional Council said patience was paying off for landowners who were waiting for the virus to take hold. ORC Director of Environmental Monitoring and Operations, Scott MacLean, said the news was good however the virus would not be widespread at this stage. If a virus like this is left to spread naturally like this, you would see it peak about four weeks after release. He noted we were close to this timeframe now. He said the virus would spread for 12-14 weeks after release. The virus is spread from rabbit-to-rabbit contact and also through flies. Mr MacLean emphasised that human intervention could potentially result in rabbits becoming immune to the virus, so patience was needed. Farmers who notice dead rabbits on their properties should contact a biosecurity officer so samples can be taken.