Incursions of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2 in Canada-Clinical, molecular and epidemiological investigation.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) is a newly emerging Lagovirus belonging to the family Caliciviridae. After its first discovery in 2010 in France, this highly pathogenic virus rapidly spread to neighbouring countries and has become the dominant strain, replacing the classical RHDV strains. RHDV2 was first reported in North America in 2016 in Mont-Joli, Quebec, Canada, and it was reported again in 2018 and 2019 on Vancouver Island and the southwest mainland of British Columbia (BC). The whole genome sequence of the RHDV2 Quebec isolate resembled the 2011 RHDV2-N11 isolate from Navarra, Spain with 97% identity at the nucleotide level. The epidemiological investigation related to this outbreak involved three hobby farms and one personal residence in Quebec. In February 2018, high mortality was reported in a large colony of feral rabbits on the Vancouver Island University Campus, Nanaimo, BC. The virus identified showed only 93% identity to the Quebec RHDV2 isolate at the nucleotide level. Additional cases of RHDV2 on Vancouver Island and on the BC mainland affecting feral and captive domestic, and commercial rabbits were reported subsequently. Vaccination was recommended to control the outbreak and an inactivated bivalent vaccine was made available to the private veterinary practices. In June 2019, an isolated RHDV2 outbreak was reported in pet rabbits in an apartment building in Vancouver, BC. This virus showed only 97% identity to the RHDV2 isolates responsible for the BC outbreak in 2018 at the nucleotide level, suggesting that it was an independent incursion. The outbreak in BC killed a large number of feral European rabbits; however, there were no confirmed cases of RHD in native rabbit species in BC.