Rabbit hemorrhagic disease found for a second year

Henrietta Strickland
April 13, 2019

A rare disease that kills rabbits appears to have returned to parts of Vancouver Island.

The warning comes after the death of four feral rabbits in Parksville, B.C. Testing of the rabbits confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, caused by a calicivirus.

Last year's strain, which killed hundreds of rabbits in Nanaimo in March 2018, only affected European rabbits and not native North American ones.

"Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease that is exclusive to rabbits". The province notes that humans and other animals, including dogs and cats, can not be infected.

The strain of the virus seen previous year in B.C. only affects European rabbits and is not known to affect native North American rabbits, the ministry said.

Anyone who owns pet rabbits in the area is being urged to take precautions against the virus by practicing good hygiene when handling their animals and steering clear of areas where other rabbits have fallen ill.

However, in most cases, rabbits affected by the disease die suddenly as the virus attacks the animal's liver and other organs, and causes hemorrhages by affecting blood vessels. There is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death.

The virus was first detected in March of a year ago around Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, which was the third confirmed diagnosis of the virus in Canada and the first in B.C.

Rabbit owners can find out more information on how to keep their pets safe and to consult about vaccinations with their veterinarian in the SPCA RHD fact sheet.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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