Rupert the therapy bunny has been sidelined from his volunteer work, due to a deadly virus outbreak among rabbits.
Rupert has been featured in the past in The Progress, as he visits patients at Chilliwack General Hospital on a regular basis to comfort them in their rooms, and brighten up the spirits of pediatric patients. But when the outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease was announced, Rupert and his handler Norm Keller immediately stopped public appearances.
“There has been an outbreak of ‘Rabbit haemorrhagic disease’ in Nanaimo, B.C.,” they announced on Rupert Bunny’s Facebook page on March 2. “This is reported to be a very contagious airborne disease fatal to rabbits, which doesn’t affect other animals. It is reported to be easily transported/transmitted so Rupert will be under quarantine and not visiting for the near future.”
Rabbit owners across B.C. and Washington are being asked to take precautions, by the B.C. government after a large number of dead rabbits were found in the Vancouver Island University area.
“Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease of rabbits,” said Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “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.”
Humans are not at risk, so the precautions are for Rupert’s and other rabbits’ safety, not the patients he was visiting.
“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,” the ministry said.
The quarantine lasts 15 weeks from the last reported, which could mean Rupert will be at home for quite some time. On Rupert’s Facebook page, they’ve been sharing the most up-to-date information from the Dewdney Animal Hospital. They recently reported that a case of the virus has been detected on the mainland.