VICTORIA - A rare disease that kills rabbits has returned to parts of Vancouver Island.

British Columbia's Forests Ministry issued a warning Wednesday advising pet owners to take precautions with their rabbits after tests confirmed four feral rabbits in the Parksville area died from a highly infectious virus.

A ministry statement said tests confirm the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which is caused by a calicivirus that only affects rabbits.

It is the second year in a row the virus has been found in Vancouver Island rabbits, but the source of is unknown, said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

Popham said provincial veterinarians are monitoring the highly infectious and deadly disease.

“There is a problem with wild rabbits,” she said. “It's a hemorrhagic disease and unfortunately it can transfer to domestic rabbits and pet rabbits, but there is a vaccine available through your vet.”

Popham said the disease can spread quickly and she suggested concerned rabbit owners contact their vet.

The virus, which causes death within 36 hours, killed hundreds of rabbits last year across much of Vancouver Island and in Delta near Vancouver.

Pet owners should monitor their rabbits daily for signs of illness and contact a veterinarian with any concerns.