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

‘Dramatic undersupply’ of workers in Parksville Qualicum Beach: new labour report

Analysis supports what many already know, reinforces need for action: Burden

Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

City issued Manna Homeless Society cease and desist order after complaints from public

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Discarded needles, theft from homes and businesses keep Oceanside RCMP hopping

Crime report also includes cannabis-related infraction

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Canucks’ 50/50 jackpot expected to surpass $1 million

The guaranteed prize for one lucky winner will be $500,000 minimum when Vancouver hosts LA Nov 27

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

Most Read