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Wet weather blamed for outbreak of myxomatosis in East Lancashire
WILDLIFE experts believe wet weather may have caused an oubreak of a deadly rabbit disease across East Lancashire.
Farmers and pet owners have reported cases of myxomatosis.
The painful disease causes runny eyes and puffinness around the head and can lead to blindness.
Amanda Dowson, who runs Mrs Dowson’s Ice Cream from Hawkshaw Fold Farm, Clayton-le-Dale, said she was worried after cases were noted on nearby farms.
She said: “We are okay with our rabbits but a man we employ came in and said it was going round.”
The infection was introduced as a control measure into the British rabbit population in the 1953. It can also affect domestic pets.
But in only three years it is estimated 99 per cent of the country’s 600 million rabbits were killed until an immunity developed against the most virulent strain and numbers began to increase again.
Mrs Dowson said: “My son’s girlfriend lives at Mellor Brook and one of her rabbits got it. They managed to treat it, but she spent an awful lot of money at the vets and it was very upsetting. They thought they were going to have to lose it.”
Matthew Oddie, Springfield Vets practice manager, which has surgeries in Blackburn and Darwen, said the infection often spreads very quickly. He said: “Sometimes you get an outbreak and you get a few in at a time.
“We advise rabbit owners to have the vaccine.”
Sam Bolton, who surveys mammals in the North West, said: “The disease will have spread because of the wetter weather. It’s usually contracted within burrows.”