Disease kills 100s of rabbits

Hundreds of stray rabbits have been killed in Nanaimo by a rare, contagious disease.

More than 30 rabbits were found dead at the city's Vancouver Island University campus, while a dozen were found at Rotary Park and more than 200 died at a nearby animal rescue.

Several of the deceased critters were evaluated at the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, all of which tested positive for a virus called rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

The disease can't be spread to humans or animals other than rabbits, officials reassured.

For rabbits, however, the disease can be spread as easily as through the air, according to experts. It causes rabbits' blood vessels to rupture, and there is currently no cure.

People with pet rabbits are advised to keep good hygiene and stay away from areas where the disease has been found.

The diagnosis in Nanaimo is the first time the rabbit disease has been found in B.C., and the third time in Canada. It's been used for population control in other places, but officials aren't sure how it reached Vancouver Island.

- with files from CTV Vancouver Island.

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