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Fast-acting rabbit virus confirmed in downtown Vancouver, blamed for several pet deaths

A wild rabbit grazes in Nanaimo, B.C., on February 2, 2018.
A wild rabbit grazes in Nanaimo, B.C., on February 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

A deadly rabbit virus that can kill bunnies in just one day has been blamed for several pet deaths in downtown Vancouver.

B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease at a downtown apartment building, adding the virus has been contained to that building.

Officials would not say where in downtown Vancouver the building is located. The source of the disease is unknown.

WATCH: (Aired April 25, 2018) Vaccination campaign launched to save Metro Vancouver rabbits

Vaccination campaign launched to save Metro Vancouver rabbits
Vaccination campaign launched to save Metro Vancouver rabbits

The province’s chief veterinary officer has ordered owners against moving rabbits in or out of the building, and has mandated vaccinations for the disease there.

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“Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease that is exclusive to rabbits. Humans and other animals, including dogs and cats, cannot be infected,” the ministry said in a media release.

READ MORE: Virus that can kill rabbits in just 1 day returns to Vancouver Island

The disease can spread quickly, with signs of the illness showing up within hours.

“Owners are advised to take precautions by practicing excellent hygiene when handling their animals and staying away from the area where the disease has occurred,” the ministry added.

Pet owners are being told to monitor their rabbits daily for signs of infection and to contact a veterinarian immediately if they have concerns.

WATCH: (Aired March 21, 2018) Deadly virus discovered in rabbits

Deadly virus discovered in rabbits
Deadly virus discovered in rabbits

The ministry says the virus affects rabbits’ blood vessels, livers and organs by causing hemorrhages, and usually causes sudden death.

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In April, officials warned the disease had shown up in central Vancouver Island for the second straight year after it was found in four dead feral rabbits.

The ministry said Friday the disease was found in feral, commercial and pet rabbits in Parksville, Comox Valley and Nanaimo, along with Richmond and Delta this year.

READ MORE: B.C. rabbits dying from lethal virus that kills in less time than Ebola hits some humans

The chief veterinary officer has allowed the import of vaccinations into the province, and the ministry said many rabbits have already been vaccinated.

The BC SPCA is offering a public vaccination clinic on June 26 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Rabbit owners can find more information about the disease here.

— With files from Simon Little