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Virus that kills rabbits faster than Ebola affects some humans reappears on Vancouver Island

Rabbit
Rabbit owners are being warned to keep a close eye on their pets after haemorrhagic disease was confirmed once again on Vancouver Island. Marka/UIG via Getty Images

Rabbit owners on southern Vancouver Island are being warned to take extra precautions with their pets after the reemergence of a deadly virus in the Capital Regional District.

The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations says rabbit hemorrhagic disease was recently detected in two dead feral rabbits.

It is the second consecutive year the virus has turned up in the area, and officials say they haven’t been able to pinpoint the source.

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

The same disease was blamed for several rabbit deaths in Vancouver earlier this summer.

“Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease that is exclusive to rabbits,” said the ministry in a media release.

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“Humans and other animals, including dogs and cats, cannot be infected.”

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

Click to play video 'Deadly virus discovered in rabbits' Deadly virus discovered in rabbits
Deadly virus discovered in rabbits – Mar 21, 2018

The ministry added that the viral strain detected last year targets European rabbits, but is not known to harm those native to North America.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is caused by a calicivirus and works by attacking blood vessels, along with the liver and other organs.

Once rabbits are infected, symptoms usually manifest in between one and nine days.

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

By way of comparison, the Ebola virus incubates in a human body for anywhere from two to 21 days before symptoms appear.

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The ministry says rabbit owners should check their pets daily for signs of sickness, and call a veterinarian immediately if they have concerns.

Symptoms can include tiredness, uncoordinated behaviour, trouble breathing and, near the time of death, bleeding from the nose.

The ministry says rabbit owners can also obtain a vaccine from veterinary clinics around B.C.