Deadly rabbit virus enters southern Alberta: ‘The disease is very scary’


While the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 epidemic, another deadly virus has popped up in an animal population in Alberta.

Rabbit owners and veterinarians are expressing concern after the rabbit’s hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) was identified in Lethbridge in late April.

A letter from Alberta’s chief provincial veterinarian states that “RHDV2 has been confirmed in domesticated rabbits in a home in southern Alberta.”

The disease is easily spread and highly contagious, and has a very high mortality rate. Death after a short period of illness is common, and sudden death can occur without any symptoms.

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According to the Calgary Avian and Exotic Stomach Clinic, five domestic rabbits died in Lethbridge after being infected.

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“Sadly, five indoor rabbits died within about one-and-a-half days of the RHD virus after a new rabbit was added to the group,” Read its Facebook post. “This underscores the need for strict quarantine of any new pets added to the house.”

Located in Lethbridge, Archies Angels Rabbit Rescue is currently caring for about 50 rabbits and is very concerned about RHDV2.

“This disease is very scary. It is very comfortable, ”explained director Alyssa König. “You can bring it on your shoes, clothes, items.”

The introduction of the virus to the community was sufficient to prevent the closure of the shop for the time being.

“We’ve really shut down our rescue completely,” she said. “And we are not the only ones.

“No one comes in, no one comes out, no one is a transport rabbit.” Obviously, we have to be extremely diligent with our livelihood. “

König said the other concern is the lack of vaccines in the region.

According to the chief provincial veterinarian paper, “There is no vaccine for general use in Canada.” “(However), veterinarians are able to apply to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for an emergency and research use import permit to import the vaccine under certain special circumstances.”

One of Karli Pansky’s domesticated rabbits.

Courtesy: Karli Pansky

Carly Pansky, a Lethbridge resident and owner of three rabbits, is hoping that the vet will be able to get the rabbit owners to get the vaccine to bring peace of mind for themselves.

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“I wasn’t too worried, noting that no cases had come to Alberta yet,” she said. “But then to find out that there were cases here, it’s crazy and really worrying.

“If a vaccine was in Lethbridge, they were leaving as soon as possible.”

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Dr. Adrian Walton, owner of Dudney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, B.C. The disease spread to the Vancouver area in 2018 and reappeared for some time in the region in 2019.

With a death rate of about 90 percent, Walton said it reached Canada fairly quickly. But now, it has returned and seems to reduce mortality, meaning there is a greater likelihood of transmission. There is no cure for the disease, and rabbits that survive will be lifelong carriers.

“Everything calmed down until 18 months ago,” he said. “Suddenly, the outbreak of New Mexico occurred, (and) this thing is spreading like wildfire all over North America.”

With confirmed cases also in Montana, Walton said that if the recent Lethbridge case is not the cause of the outbreak, the disease is more likely to enter the province.

“Our concern in this matter is because we don’t know where it came from, and in fact, we know that the virus is just a state, even if it’s a separate outbreak – because there’s really nothing to stop it. Is. Virus from heading north – I suspect this is a problem for Alberta in the coming months.

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Walton reported that if wild rabbits become infected, the effects on the food chain can be harmful.

“Please, if you find a dead rabbit that looks like it died for no reason, just reach out to the fish and wildlife and tell them so they can track how it is moving through Alberta,” Walton. he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Chorus Entertainment Inc.

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