Rabbit owners are advised to be cautious as there have been more confirmed cases of rabbit haemorrhagic disease. (News Bulletin file photo)

Province warning rabbit owners after confirmed cases of deadly virus

Testing confirmed feral rabbits in Nanaimo and Delta had died from rabbit hemorrhagic disease

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is warning rabbit owners in B.C. to take precautions in the wake of a highly infectious bunny virus on central Vancouver Island and parts of the Lower Mainland.

“While there is no threat to humans, and in addition to rabbit owners taking precautions, the public is advised not to move domestic rabbits into the wild at any time,” reads a March 21 press release from the ministry.

“As well, rabbit owners should take precautions when disposing of any rabbit remains.”

In late February, the discovery of over 300 dead feral rabbits in Nanaimo prompted an investigation into the cause of the animals’ deaths.

Read More: Rabbit owners in Nanaimo warned about deadly bunny virus

The Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford tested some of the rabbit carcasses in early March, revealing an outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease on Central Vancouver Island.

Following that, a spate of dead rabbit sightings was reported in the Comox Valley, located about 100 kilometers north of Nanaimo. Testing is being done on those rabbits to see if they died of the same virus.

Read More: Dead rabbits found at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds stoke concerns aboutNanaimo virus

The virus was also discovered in Delta.

According to the ministry, the virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the rabbits’ blood vessels, while attacking the liver and other organs.

“Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease of rabbits,” reads the ministry’s press release. “[This] is the third confirmed diagnosis of this virus in Canada and the first in B.C.”

The ministry suggests rabbit owners monitor their rabbits daily for signs of illness and to contact their veterinarian if they have any concerns.

The virus only affects European rabbits and is not known to affect rabbits native to North America, according to the ministry’s wildlife veterinarians. The virus does not affect other animals, including cats and dogs.

Despite the outbreak, B.C. wildlife veterinarian Helen Schwantje said the government is not considering any population controls to mitigate the virus.

“Ethically, this is not something I would ever do,” she said. “As a provincial government employee, I can’t take that kind of a step without major consultation with the public, with many different groups and it’s not something ethically I would ever do.”

Rabbit owners who want more information about how to keep their pets safe can consult with their veterinarian, or review an SPCA fact sheet on rabbit hemorrhagic disease at bit.ly/2GQstU5

The BC SPCA has temporarily suspended intake of rabbits into all Island shelters until the extent of the outbreak of the virus is known.

—With files from Karl Yu/Nanaimo News Bulletin

Just Posted

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Sunny days ahead

It’s beginning to feel like spring in Kelowna

Southern Interior worst for animal-related crashes

ICBC stats put the interior at 4,800 incidents in 2017

More places in Kelowna to eat plant-based meat

Vegans and Vegetarians have a few more places to indulge

Kelowna loves St. Patrick’s Day

Residents painted the town green with some great events

Okanagan Singer-Songwriter competition looks for new talent

The competition will celebrate its eighth anniversary this year

Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre

Police say the gunman in the shooting that killed 50 acted alone

National Arts Centre spotlights Indigenous and female artists in upcoming season

Other musical offerings include a salute to Canada’s Indigenous composers

Travel expected to be slowed by fallout from fire at Toronto’s Pearson airport

All U.S.-bound flights from Terminal 1 were cancelled Sunday night after the fire broke out near a security checkpoint

Trudeau fills vacancy in cabinet with B.C. MP Joyce Murray

Murray, 64, was elected in 2008 and served previously as a minister in B.C.’s provincial government

Leivo nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Stars 3-2

Schaller scores first 2 goals of season for Vancouver

UBC study shows honey bees can help monitor pollution in cities

Scientists analyzed beehives in high density urban areas to those off on Galiano Island

Most Read