Health officials are fanning out to contain a rabies threat in Chom Thong district after members of a family were bitten by a pet rabbit infected with the virus.

Deputy Bangkok governor Malinee Sukvejvorakij said the family’s members were given rabies injections after their pet rabbit died and posthumously tested positive for the virus.

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) health authorities will meet tomorrow to identify the source of the rabbit’s rabies infection so they can prevent a possible epidemic.

Their search will probably include a trip to Chatuchak Weekend Market, where the infected rabbit was bought.

The deputy governor said 120 health officials are checking the areas around the family’s neighbourhood for signs of the disease.

Pets such as dogs and cats within a five kilometre radius of the family’s home _ on Therdthai Road in Kwang Bang Kor of Chom Thong district _ have been vaccinated against rabies.

“This is a rare case. There is only a 5% chance that a pet rabbit will be infected with rabies _ more than 90% of cases are dogs and cats,” Dr Malinee said.

Phinai Luanprasert, director of the BMA-run 29th Public Health Centre, said Samruay Phumarin, 42, visited the centre on Friday and said his family had been bitten by their pet rabbit, which was infected with rabies.

Mr Samruay said the dead rabbit, named Poko, was one of two rabbits he bought from Chatuchak Weekend Market late last year.

The other rabbit, a female, died from diarrhoea shortly after it arrived at their house. Poko, a male, then exhibited strange behaviour after the family bought a second female rabbit from the Sanam Luang II market in Thawi Watthana district, Mr Samruay told Dr Phinai.

Mr Samruay said Poko began biting the feet of family members starting around June 10. The family eventually had to put the rabbit in a kennel.

Mr Samruay’s son bled after being bitten by Poko while feeding the rabbit _ he has since received anti-rabies shots.

The animal died on July 28. The next day, the female rabbit also died.

Mr Samruay’s family suspected Poko carried rabies and sent its carcass to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute for examination. The rabies test came back positive. The female rabbit’s carcass was not sent for examination.

Mr Samruay and his family received shots from the hospital, but he worried he may have received the injection too late as he was bitten several days before.

Dr Malinee said he knew of no rabies infections to have been reported among rabbits in Thailand before this case.