PRO/AH> Myxomatosis – UK: (England) wild rabbit


A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Tue 13 Jun 2023
Source: Gazette [edited]

Myxomatosis has reportedly been spotted in wild rabbits around fields
near Cam Peak and Box Road. Many of the animals have been found dead.

Myxomatosis is a highly contagious viral disease in rabbits that is
usually fatal and is spread by insects such as mosquitoes. Lots of
wild rabbits have developed immunity to the disease, but this is not
true for pet rabbits with vaccination being the only way to mitigate
the virus.

A concerned Dursley resident said: “It’s quite a big problem around
Cam Peak and near the train station. We need to spread the word. If
people are not careful their pets could be affected by this and people
need to know. Rabbits are everywhere in the area, in back gardens and
in the countryside. It just goes round and round with the different
authorities, I’ve spoken to the RSPCA [Royal Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] and Stroud District Council.

“It’s wild animals, what can they do about it? The fact of the matter
is, people in the Dursley area need to get their pet rabbits
vaccinated or they could be euthanised.”

The Gazette contacted veterinary practice Vale Vets, the RSPCA, and
Stroud District Council, all of which were unable to officially
confirm whether rates of the disease were on the rise in the Cam and
Dursley area. However, all organisations have encouraged families to
get pet rabbits vaccinated.

Dave Tweedle is the clinical board chairman of My Family Vets, a
network of veterinary practices that includes Dursley-based Vale Vets.
He said: “Vaccination against myxomatosis is essential in order to
keep your bunny safe. You should ensure that your rabbit stays up to
date with their vaccinations at all times and with no exceptions.
Myxomatosis in rabbits doesn’t always manifest itself as soon as they
become infected with it — which makes preventative vaccinations all
the more important.”

A Stroud District Council spokesperson said: “Myxomatosis is a severe,
usually fatal, viral disease that can be passed from wild to domestic
rabbits through either direct contact, or via biting insects such as
fleas, ticks, mites, and mosquitoes. It’s a nasty virus that attacks a
rabbit’s skin, eyes, lungs, liver, and genitals and can leave them
prone to other infections. It can be prevented or rendered less
harmful by annual vaccination of your rabbit.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “This suspected outbreak of myxomatosis
shows why vaccinations against awful diseases like this are so
important in protecting our pets. Myxomatosis is a highly infectious
and fatal disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbits. It
can be spread by fleas, mites, and biting flies such as mosquitoes, as
well as direct contact between infected animals.

“The symptoms include lesions on the head or body, swelling around the
lips, nose, eyes, and ears, runny eyes, and severe conjunctivitis
which can lead to blindness.

“The disease is widespread in wild rabbits in the UK and sadly there’s
no treatment or cure for it, so euthanasia is the only option for
infected animals. Pet rabbits, however, can be easily vaccinated from
5 weeks old to prevent them from getting this awful disease and the
RSPCA always recommends that owners take this course of action.

“Any suffering wild rabbit that can be contained should be taken to
the nearest vet. In the earlier stages of the disease, rabbits with
myxomatosis may remain quite mobile and will evade any attempts to
capture. However, deterioration may later mean they can be caught, and
we would advise people to monitor the situation on a daily basis. When
confining the rabbit please remember to wear thick gloves at all times
and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the animal.

“You can find more advice about handling and transporting wild rabbits
on the RSPCA’s website at”

[byline: Alice Knight]

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