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

Cranbrook Bandits hand out end of season awards

The junior and senior teams recognized players from the 2019 season

It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1912

Aug. 11 - 17: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Kootenay Orienteering Championships coming to Kimberley, Cranbrook

The championships take place from September 6 to 8, 2019.

Local rowing club comes up big at Nelson Sprints Regatta

The Rockies Rowing Club saw multiple members have positive results at the annual regatta

City gets $100K grant for improving National Disaster Mitigation Program

The City of Cranbrook successfully applied for and has been awarded a… Continue reading

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Environment groups warned saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan

Talk of climate change could be viewed as advocating against Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Scheer repeats call on RCMP to investigate Trudeau’s actions in SNC affair

Ethics watchdog Mario Dion found that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

Maxime Bernier tells party faithful he will make it into the leaders’ debates

The People’s Party of Canada does not meet the current requirements

15-year-old boy drowns after midnight jump into Okanagan Lake

The RCMP and BC Coroners Service are investigating the drowning.

Most Read