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

New Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores how languages change and disappear

‘Athut/Words Bounce’ features work by artists Patrick Cruz, Joi T. Arcand and Susan Hiller

Nanaimo temporary supportive housing sites won’t be labelled nuisance properties

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong’s motion for a staff report on the topic rejected at council meeting

Nanaimo council votes on what could be city’s first legal marijuana store

Council passes first two readings of rezoning application for the Bud Barn at 111 Nicol St.

International Guitar Night comes to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre this week

Italian, French and Turkish guitarists will perform solo and as a group

Home care complaints up 45% on Vancouver Island

Number of home care hours delivered down 6%, complaints up 45 %

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Cannabis-carrying border crossers could be hit with fines under coming system

Penalties are slated to be in place some time next year

Man accused of threatening to kill ‘as many girls as I see’

Christopher W. Cleary wrote he was angry because he’d never had a girlfriend and wanted to ‘make it right’ with a mass shooting

Canadian talent abound on newly revamped Vancouver Whitecaps squad

Lineup is full of new faces after the organization parted ways with 18 players over the off-season

Most Read