The inaccuracies of reporting the outbreak of "RCD" in Iowa, USA in March 2000

USDA adopts wrong name for disease

The USDA has adopted the wrong name for a disease that killed 25 rabbits when the disease broke out for the first time on a farm in Iowa in March 2000.

The USDA has named the disease RCD or Rabbit Calicivirus Disease on their website. The correct name for the disease is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits.

Rabbit Calicivirus Disease was a name adopted by Australian authorities to seem less emotive (the name RCD left out the word "haemorrhagic").

Click here to visit the "Rabbit Calicivirus Disease [should/be RVHD]" USDA page
Click here to see the correct name of the disease and suggested classification

There is also an RCV name used for Reptile Calicivirus already accepted by the scientific community. Will there be confusion between this terminology and the pseudo name "RCD"?

Why change the name of the disease?

Australian scientists wanted to use RHD to kill wild European rabbits in Australia who they deemed to be a "pest species" and the use of the word "hemorrhagic" may have upset the Australian public. In Science magazine (Volume 272, 12th April 1996) officials from Australian Animal Health Laboratories were quoted as "pleading guilty to a bit of spin control:They acknowledge that attempting to use the term Rabbit Calicivirus Disease instead of RHD, to make the virus seem more innocuous , was an ill-conceived public relations ploy". In a nutshell, Australian authorities deliberately mis-informed the Australian public as to what RHD really does to rabbits (causes hemorrhaging) - by deliberately omitting the word "hemorrhagic" and replacing it with "calicivirus". The OIE (International Office of Epizootics in France) named the disease Viral Hemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits in 1989 [Scientific and Technical Review , OIE, Volume 10, No 2 - Viral Hemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits and the European Brown Hare Syndrome]].

If anyone is really interested about disease names, visit the ICTV who maintain an international register of disease names. Here are their objectives
ICTV website
3.1 To develop an internationally agreed taxonomy for viruses.
3.2 To establish internationally agreed names for virus taxa, virus species and subviral agents.
3.3 To communicate the decisions reached concerning the classification and nomenclature of viruses and subviral agents to virologists by holding meetings and publishing reports.
3.4 To maintain an Official Index of virus names"

Also, you can visit the International working committee on Calicivirus at
Click here to visit ICTV Calicivirus working group
to see their recommendations to ICTV concerning caliciviruses (here is an excerpt)

Thus the new taxonomic structure of the family is as follows:

Family: Caliciviridae
Genus: Vesivirus
Type species: Swine vesicular exanthema virus
Genus: Lagovirus
Type species: Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus
Genus: "Norwalk-like viruses"
Type species: Norwalk virus
Genus: "Sapporo-like viruses"
Type species: Sapporo virus


Scientist involved in Australian RCD saga heads laboratory in Iowa

This item was omitted by the press (or perhaps they were ignorant of the fact)

Dr Keith Murray was deputy head of the CSIRO Animal Health laboratory at the time of the RCD outbreak in Australia. He is now Director of the main National Animal Disease Centre in Iowa. Dr Murray criticised other scientists who spoke out about the dangers of deliberately spreading RCD in Australia.

Read about his appointment at

click here to read 1998 CSIRO press release


"26 October, 1998
A senior CSIRO scientist has been appointed as the director of the largest animal disease laboratory within the United States Department of Agriculture.
Dr Keith Murray, Deputy Chief with CSIRO Animal Health, will take up the position with the National Animal Disease Centre (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, in December.
The NADC carries out research in the detection, characterisation and prevention of animal diseases of importance to US livestock industries."

Visit NADC in Ames, Iowa

Dr Murray wrote a news release attempting to discredit a USA scientist who spoke out about the dangers of RCD in relation to RCD.

See the response to this news release at

Click here to see the the response of a USA scientist to Dr Murray's CSIRO news release

There is no Australian strain of RCD

Australian scientists imported RCD (correct name is VHD or viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits) into Australia from Cszechoslovakia for use as a biocontrol agent of wild rabbits in Australia .

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease of rabbits escaped from a containment facility on Wardang Island off the coast of South Australia in 1995 and spread across the Australian continent.

There is a Czechoslovakian strain of RCD in Australia NOT an Australian strain.

Visit the ARBA statement on the latest RCD outbreak and watch how the writer distances the outbreak from Australia (neglecting to mention the Australian strain is a European strain from Cszechoslovakia)

Click here to visit ARBA page

Virus could be sent by mail

A person who attended a conference on RHD heard researchers say that they were able to mail the RHD virus to each other through the post on blotting paper. They said they had done this successfully and swapped strains this way. The virus can live on inanimate objects such as clothing for 60 days.

Stay tuned as more inaccuracies and co-incidences emerge as the story of the latest RCD outbreak in the USA unfolds.

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