(File photo)

Cowichan free of rabbit haemorrhagic disease — so far

The virus has been confirmed in Comox, Nanaimo and Delta

So far, the Cowichan Valley appears to have escaped the outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease that has killed hundreds of animals farther north on Vancouver Island, according to Sandi Trent, manager of the Cowichan Valley branch of the BCSPCA.

“I was talking to the manager in Comox and they certainly do [have the disease there] and Nanaimo certainly does but we have no reports from the public to our shelter,” Trent said. “Nanaimo had a bunch of rabbits that all succumbed unfortunately.

“I know there are pockets of feral rabbits in the Cowichan Valley but no one has reported anything. I don’t know if it’s just because people aren’t seeing them, or they’re just in areas where it’s more rural and people aren’t coming across the bodies, but I know they’re on high alert in Victoria. It’s pretty widespread from what I understand,” she said.

“I also know we’re all on lockdown in terms of intaking any rabbits that have been outside and a lot of the rabbit rescues are on careful watch and making sure that all their rabbits are in foster homes and not shelter situations outside. But that’s predominantly on the mainland.

“It’s pretty scary,” she said.

The B.C. government has confirmed that dead feral rabbits found recently in the Comox Valley did die of rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

The disease was first confirmed in Nanaimo in late February, where more than 300 feral rabbit carcasses were discovered near the Vancouver Island University campus. The bunnies were sent to the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, where it was confirmed they had developed rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

The highly contagious and lethal virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the rabbits’ blood vessels and attacking the liver and other organs.

Dead rabbits found in Delta were later confirmed to have had died from the same virus.

Read More: Province warning rabbit owners after confirmed cases of deadly virus

Residents in Courtenay, (located about 100 kilometres north of Nanaimo), reported a spate of dead rabbit sightings near the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds two weeks ago, stoking concerns that the virus discovered in Nanaimo had moved up-Island.

Read More: Dead rabbits found at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds stoke concerns

Jane Pritchard, the chief veterinary officer for the B.C. government and the executive director of the Plant and Animal Health Branch, says the virus is highly contagious to rabbits.

“We knew it was very contagious when we had the first confirmation, so it’s really not a surprise that it’s moved,” she said. “It certainly is a mystery how it’s moved, as Nanaimo and Comox aren’t exactly side-by-side.”

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, this is the third confirmed case of the virus and the first in B.C.

“The disease is exclusive to rabbits,” reads a FLNRORD press release on March 28. “Humans and other animals, including dogs and cats, cannot be infected. The virus affects only European rabbits, and is not known to affect native North American rabbits.”

Pritchard noted that B.C. veterinarians will have access to vaccinations for the disease in the coming weeks, and will be able to vaccinate pet rabbits.

“There will be a vaccine coming in from France that provides some protection against the strain two of the virus that we have detected. [Pet rabbit owners] should probably be consulting with their veterinarian over the possibility of vaccination as protection,” she said.

The public is advised not to move domestic rabbits into the wild at any time.

As well, rabbit owners should take precautions when disposing of any rabbit remains.

Just Posted

‘The Little Prince’ lands on Chemainus Theatre stage starting this weekend

It’s a magical experience for young and old: a classic tale comes to the stage

Club’s banner offers warm welcome at Cowichan Secondary

It’s hung above the inner door in the main lobby of the school on James Street

Drivesmart column: No playing in the street!

The residential street we lived on was treated as an extension of the front yard

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Jitney tradition marks Canada Day

About half CLBC’s membership takes part

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Cowichan Coffee Time: Mounties partner with CTRA, plus bursaries

• Cowichan Spirit of Women has accomplished a lot in the Valley… Continue reading

Coming up in Cowichan: Boots full of treasure, Dementia workshop, MP’s town hall meeting

Celebrating five years at the Station with ‘Loot in the Boot’ Cowichan… Continue reading

VIDEO: Firefighters put out brush fire in Nanaimo

Fire broke out in the area of a new development under construction in East Wellington

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read