One of the most popular pets in Thailand is the rabbit. Tens of thousands of Thais buy pet rabbits every year from markets, pet shops and street stalls. Often at less than 200 baht ($6.75), they’re a cheap pet to buy and, as rabbit food and vegetables are dirt cheap in Thailand, they are also cheap to keep. I’ve owned rabbits in Thailand for five years myself. Rabbits that I bought at Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, and which have been some of the best and healthiest pets I’ve ever owned. So, I was sad to read in the Bangkok Post this morning that a rabbit bought recently at Chatuchak Market has died of rabies.
Rabies is very common in stray dogs and cats in Thailand, with some experts saying up to 50 percent of them could be infected with the deadly disease. It’s not, however, a common disease in rabbits. Not in any country.
The rabbit in question was bought by a Thai family at Chatuchak Market. Members of the family were later bitten by the rabbit, which eventually then died. When tested, it was shown to be infected with rabies. The family have been vaccinated against the deadly disease (and that’s not a pleasant treatment in itself), and Thai authorities will visit Chatuchak to talk to the owner of the stall that sold the rabbit. If the rabbit was infected with rabies when the family bought it, other rabbits could have been infected too, and could have been sold to other customers.
The problem, however, is the rabbit bought at Chatuchak may not have been the one that carried the rabies virus at all. It was bought by the family late last year, but didn’t start to develop symptoms until after another rabbit had been introduced into the same cage. That rabbit was bought at Sanam Luang II market in Thawi Watthana district just a couple of months ago. It also died right after the first rabbit.
Rabies can take anything from 10 days up to a year or two to develop. So, it’s going to be difficult for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to figure out where it came from. Meanwhile, they have vaccinated dogs and cats within a five-kilometer radius of the home of the owner of the infected rabbit, and will meet tomorrow to discuss other measures with the hope of stopping a possible rabies epidemic.