Rabbit owners in the Nanaimo area are asked to take precautions after numerous dead feral rabbits were found on the campus of Vancouver Island University, and in the Rotary Bowl area.
Three rabbits sent to the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford were determined to have died of rabbit haemorrhagic disease, caused by a calicivirus. It is suspected that others have died as a result of the disease as well. More rabbits will be tested in the coming days.
Additional electron-microscope testing is underway. The disease is an immediately notifiable disease in Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been informed.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease of rabbits. It is the third confirmed diagnosis of this virus in Canada, and the first in British Columbia. The disease is exclusive to rabbits. Other animals, including dogs and cats, cannot be infected.
While there is no threat to humans, the public is advised not to release domestic rabbits into the wild at any time.
As well, rabbit owners should take precautions when disposing of any rabbit remains, and contact their veterinarian for more information. Rabbit calicivirus is a pathogen, which affects only European rabbits, not native rabbits.