WATCH: A deadly virus that wiped out rabbits by the hundreds on Vancouver Island last year has returned for a second year. This time its shown up in Parksville. Skye Ryan reports.
The province is asking rabbit owners in the mid-Island to take precautions after four feral rabbits died in Parksville from a highly infectious virus.
For the second straight year, rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) was found in testing of the rabbits and the source of the virus is unknown.
The virus was first detected in March of last year around Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, which was the third confirmed diagnosis of the virus in Canada and the first in B.C.
Positive tests also showed the virus in dead rabbits in the Comox Valley and Lower Mainland.
Rabbit owners are advised to be extremely cautious as it’s an extremely infectious and lethal disease for rabbits. It does not pose a threat to humans or other animals.
The province says this strain of virus only affects European rabbits and is not known to affect North American rabbits.
RHD attacks the liver and other organs and the province says most affected rabbits die suddenly but can show signs of listlessness, lack of coordination, behaviour changes or trouble breathing within one to nine days of infection.
Officials advise pet owners to use excellent hygiene when handling their animals and to stay away from areas where the disease has occurred.
The BC SPCA has not accepted rabbits in Parksville, Nanaimo, Comox, and Richmond branches since March 2018 because of the risk of the virus.
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.