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RABBIT haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) a lagovirus, family Caliciviridae causes an acute, fulminating and generally fatal disease in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). RHDV was first identified in China in 1984 (Liu and others 1984) resulting in loss of over 100 million rabbits in less than one year (Xu 1991). In 1986 it was observed in Italy, after which it became widespread across Europe, again resulting in significant losses (Cancellotti and Renzi 1991, Delibes-Mateos and others 2008). RHDV transmission was linked to movement of rabbit products as well as live animals (Mitro and Krauss 1993). In Great Britain, RHDV was first detected in 1992 during which up to 80 per cent mortality was observed; however, thereafter, only small localised outbreaks followed (Chasey 1994). Subsequently, the availability of efficacious commercial vaccines that afforded protection against circulating RHDV strains enabled its control; however, in wild populations effects of vaccination campaigns are considered inconsequential (Calvete and others 2004).
In summer 2010 a RHDV variant, deciphered on basis of the major capsid protein (VP60) sequence and designated RHDV-2, was detected in France (Le Gall-Recule and others 2011), following which it spread across mainland Europe (Dalton and others 2012, Abrantes and others 2013). Since August 2013 the authors have received an increased number of samples submitted for the investigation of RHDV. Analysis of a portion of the VP60 and subsequent sequencing and phylogenetic …