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

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes

Four of the tiny homes are now complete and residents have moved in

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

VIDEO: Woman, off-duty cop in serious condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms overflow: reports

About 80 per cent of Canadians drink, and most enjoy a drink or two

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Most Read