RESIDENTS are concerned a mystery virus is causing animals to suffer and creating a health hazard at playing fields in Blackburn.

Amanda and John Lucas, who regularly take walks across the fields at Henry Whalley Street, in Mill Hill, said they were concerned when they began seeing the dead bodies of rabbits in the area.

The area is a popular place for children and pets to play.

The pair say the animals had puffy pink eyes which were streaming and that some of the animals appeared to be in great pain before succumbing to a lingering death.

After the incidents were reported to Blackburn with Darwen Council, the landowner was contacted to remove the bodies of dead rabbits, but no further investigation will be undertaken as the viruses which threaten rabbits, including myxomatosis, do not have any effect on people.

Myxomatosis is a virus which killed 95 per cent of the country’s wild rabbits when it was first introduced to this country in the fifties.

Mr Lucas said: “It cannot be healthy to have dead bodies of animals lying around, where children and pets are playing, it is disgusting.

“As well as removing the bodies, I think someone should look into how this virus has started and why it is killing the rabbits in this area.

“Unless someone can find out the source, it is going to keep happening. The rabbits are in terrible pain and it is a very cruel way for them to die.”

Myxomatosis, a disease first observed in Uruguay in the late 1800s, was introduced into Australia and the UK in a bid to reduce the rabbit population after World War II.

The disease, which is spread by rabbit flea, can also be a threat to pet rabbits.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust said it had received no reports of specific problems in the area and Blackburn with Darwen Council said the problem has been dealt with by the landowner.

Chris Allen, head of public protection at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "After we received a complaint from a resident, we visited the site and then contacted the owners of the land as it is their responsibility to remove them.

“They have all now been removed. There are two diseases which effect rabbits and neither effect humans or any other animals."