Myxomatosis is a deadly disease
which is spread by fleas and mosquitoes that affects only
rabbits. It is caused by the myxoma virus which is a
member of the poxvirus group. Myxomatosis, causes localized skin tumors
among the genus Sylvilagus (cottontail rabbits),
however, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
is more severely affected by the disease and death is almost
The CFIA's (Canadian Food Inspection
Agency) annual report of 2005 to the OIE (World
Organization for Animal Health) stated there have been no
reported outbreaks of myxomatosis in Canada. Myxomatosis is
currently classed as an "annually notifiable disease" where
the CFIA is responsible for providing the OIE with an annual
report indicating the presence or non-presence of the
disease within Canada. The 2006 report has not yet been made
is endemic in the USA and is mainly restricted to the
coastal areas of California and Oregon.
Early indications of
Myxomatosis include conjunctivitis which may lead to
blindness as well as visible lumps (myxomata) and
puffiness around the head and genitals. Rabbits soon develop
a fever, lose their appetite and become listless. Secondary
bacterial infections are next to occur such as pneumonia and
purulent inflammation of lumps. The mortality rate in the
USA is anywhere from 25-90% with death usually occuring on
an average of 13 days after exposure.
RABBIT DISEASE FOUND
AGAIN IN OREGON
By David Stauth, 541-737-0787
SOURCE: Dr. Christiane Loehr, 541-737-9673
CORVALLIS - For the second year, an outbreak
has been confirmed in Oregon of a rabbit disease called myxomatosis,
and veterinary experts at Oregon State University say that rabbit
owners should understand the continued threat from this disease and
consider precautions to protect their animals.
Last summer, the first serious outbreak of
the disease in more than a decade was identified in Linn and Benton
counties in Oregon, prompting the closure of rabbit shows at the
county fairs in those two areas. Myxomatosis is a disease with an
extremely high mortality rate that shows up somewhat unpredictably
in the European rabbits most commonly reared in Oregon.
In the past two weeks, about 14 of the 21
rabbits owned by a resident of Rogue River in southern Oregon died,
and a necropsy on one of the animals by pathologists in the OSU
College of Veterinary Medicine has established the diagnosis of
"Mid- to late-July is about when we would
expect to see problems from a continuing epidemic of myxomatosis,
but at this point we have no reason to believe the problems will be
as bad as last year," said Dr. Christiane Loehr, an OSU veterinary
pathologist. "It's at least possible that last year was the peak of
this epidemic and the problem will slowly improve. It depends partly
on how bad of a mosquito season we have, which plays a role in
transmission of the disease."
There are no official recommendations at
this time to avoid rabbit shows, Loehr said.
"Mostly, we just want to remind people who
own rabbits that this disease is still with us, that they should
learn about the problems it can pose and consider taking precautions
to protect their animals," Loehr said.
Myxomatosis is highly contagious, is
transmitted naturally by mosquitoes or other insects, and can be
spread from rabbit to rabbit by human handlers. It has no cure. In
Oregon there is no diagnostic test for live animals and no readily
available vaccine. The last time a major outbreak occurred in the
1980s it caused a significant number of rabbit deaths in the
Willamette Valley and southern Oregon. The disease can have a
mortality rate higher than 90 percent in European rabbits. There are
some basic precautions that rabbit owners can take to protect their
animals, experts say.
The most important is mosquito netting,
which may help protect against mosquito and other insect
transmission. However, animal handlers should be careful about use
of such netting in very hot weather, since it may impair air flow in
Beyond that, the best prevention is avoiding
groups of other rabbits that may be infected, such as at rabbit
shows or county fairs.
Myxomatosis is caused by a poxvirus that has
a natural reservoir, perhaps among brush rabbits. It is far less
deadly to wild rabbits, although they, too, can be affected. It's
not clear what triggers the periodic outbreaks among domesticated
rabbits, but possible factors may include immunity levels in wild
populations, heat stress, other weather conditions, and wild rabbit
and mosquito populations.
Symptoms of the disease can include high
fever, loss of appetite, swelling of mucus membranes or
sluggishness. Mortality is linked to a suppression of the animals'
immune system, making them vulnerable to a host of other health
problems. Skin nodules called "myxomas" may appear in some cases.
But at times an animal has appeared fairly healthy, and then died
the next day.
There is no treatment other than supportive
care for secondary infections, veterinary doctors say, and no
vaccine is readily available. All domesticated rabbits in the U.S.
are highly susceptible to the virus, but humans are not. If a rabbit
is exposed to an infected rabbit, it should be quarantined for 14
days and assumed to be infected during that period. To help monitor
the spread of the disease, anyone who owns a rabbit that dies from
an unknown cause is encouraged to contact their local veterinarian
or arrange for a necropsy by the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at
OSU, at 541-737-3261. There will be a fee for the necropsy.
More detailed information on myxomatosis is
available on the website of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine,
Last Update:Wednesday, 21-Jul-2004 13:43:33 PDT
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Deadly disease may claim 9 out of 10
rabbits in UK
outbreak of myxomatosis in years is threatening Britain's rabbit
population, and owners of domestic animals are being warned to get their
pets vaccinated without delay.
Reports are coming in of outbreaks of the disease across the country,
with epidemics confirmed in Dorset, East Sussex, Essex, Newcastle,
Cambridge, Durham and Surrey. Experts are blaming mild conditions in the
More than 90 percent of rabbits -- wild and domestic -- that contract
myxomatosis die. The disease is carried by insects such as mosquitoes,
ticks, mites, lice and fleas. An outbreak in the early 1950s almost
wiped out the UK's rabbit population.
Claire King, executive officer at the Rabbit Welfare Association, the
UK's largest rabbit owners' organization, said: "It is now everywhere in
the country. Rabbit owners should take their rabbits down to the vet and
vaccinate them. They should do it as soon as possible. This is the worst
outbreak for years."
The disease begins with lumps around the rabbit's head and genitals.
Acute eye infection follows, causing discharge and, usually, blindness.
The rabbit then loses its balance, stops eating, and develops a fever.
Infections then occur, causing pneumonia and inflammation of the lumps.
In typical cases, death takes about 13 days.
Rabbits were introduced into Britain by invading Roman legions 2000
years ago. The population, estimated at 37.5 million, is at its highest
for half a century.
Myxomatosis was 1st observed in laboratory rabbits in Uruguay in 1896.
It was tolerated by South American rabbits but proved lethal to their
European cousins. The disease was deliberately introduced into
Australia to devastating effect in 1950. In the autumn of 1953, it
arrived in Britain. Ministry of Agriculture officials tried to
contain it but failed.
2 years later, 99 percent of Britain's wild rabbits were dead. It was
alleged that some farmers had spread the disease deliberately, as
rabbits had been blamed for the destruction of vast swathes of crops.
The Pests Act of 1954 criminalized intentional transmission, but few
prosecutions followed. The rabbit population has now grown to half of
what it was before the disease spread.
Mairwen Guard, of Cottontails Rabbit Rescue in Westbury, Wiltshire,
believes the high cost of vaccination -- between 10 to 20 GBP [17 to 34
USD] per rabbit -- is helping to spread the disease. She said:
"Responsible pet owners already vaccinate their rabbits twice a year.
Your average person will buy rabbits for their kids and then just leave
them at the bottom of the garden when the family gets bored. It's no
wonder that the disease spreads."
Dorothy and Ray Massey of the British Belgian Hare Club have over 70
animals in their barn in Wearmouth, Derbyshire. Mrs. Massey is prepared
for the worst. "This outbreak could wipe the whole lot out," she said.
"All our stock, everything. We can't vaccinate, though. It's so costly
to have the whole lot vaccinated, as well as making the does infertile."
The disease is not monitored by the Government. A spokesman for the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said yesterday [26
Nov 2005]: "This is not a notifiable disease. People whose pets catch it
or who see it are not required by law to report it. It doesn't affect
any other mammal."
[Byline: Tom Anderson]
PRO/AH/EDR> Myxomatosis, rabbits - UK
Date: Sun 27
From: A-Lan Banks <A-Lan.Banks@thomson.com>
Source: The Independent, UK, 27 Nov 2005 [edited]
in "The Independent"
Outbreak Could See Thousands Die
A deadly outbreak of the rabbit killer disease,
myxomatosis, is spreading across Huddersfield [Kirklees,
south of Leeds, in northern England]. Hundreds of
wild rabbits have already been killed by the virus,
spread by blood-sucking insects.
Several dog walkers have reported seeing dead
rabbits daily on the Dalton Bank Nature Reserve.
Many of the rabbits have inflamed ears and eyes,
which are signs of the virus.
"There have been numerous dead rabbits or parts of
rabbits around for the past week," said Deborah
Nicholson, of Kirkheaton, who regularly walks her
dog there. "The vet says the disease can't be passed
on to dogs, but some
of the rabbits have either no eyes or very inflamed
eyes, which are symptoms of the disease."
John Avison, environment coordinator for the
chemical company Syngenta, Huddersfield, which
manages the 50 acre nature reserve, said he was
aware of the outbreak. "It only kills rabbits, not
hares, but it can affect domestic rabbits," he said.
Mr Avison said the wild rabbit population had built
up some resistance to the virus, but 90 per cent
could be wiped out by this outbreak -- about 60 per
cent by the virus and 30 per cent by predators -- as
it leaves the rabbits blind and deaf and more at
risk. He said he had seen 4 outbreaks of the virus
in the 27 years he had worked at the reserve, the
last being about 3 years ago. He urged dog walkers
to keep their dogs on leads to avoid vulnerable
rabbits being attacked while ill.
Vet Sibaele Collins, who works in Huddersfield, said
the virus did flare up occasionally, but the surgery
was seeing fewer and fewer cases in domestic
rabbits, because many owners were vaccinating
against the disease. The standard rabbit
vaccination, which includes myxomatosis, costs about
GBP 25 [USD 48].
Peter Bolton, animal welfare manager for the Royal
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in
the north east, said the charity strongly
recommended owners of pet rabbits to have them
vaccinated against the virus. "It does exist in the
wild rabbit population, which is why we encourage
people to vaccinate in case pet rabbits come into
contact with wild ones," he said. "It is an horrific
death for rabbits, but unfortunately it happens, and
it is just nature's way of controlling the rabbit
[byline: Hazel Ettienne]
A ProMED-mail post
Archive Number 20041208.3256
Published Date 08-DEC-2004
Subject PRO/AH> Myxomatosis, rabbits
- UK (England)
Date: Wed 8 Dec 2004
From: ProMED-mail <email@example.com>
Source: Huddersfield Examiner, 4 Dec 2004 [edited]
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