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Myxomatosis epidemic; NATURE.

The number of pet rabbits being struck down by a contagious and lethal disease has risen dramatically in the West Midlands in the last 12 months.

The veterinary charity PDSA has reported dramatic increases in the incidence of myxomatosis in three of its PetAid hospitals.

Myxomatosis can be transmitted via fleas, flies that bite and direct contact with infected animals.

PDSA senior veterinary surgeon Sean Wensley said: "The effects of the myxomatosis virus are very distressing to witness and are usually fatal. By the time clinical signs have developed, such as facial and genital swelling, it is often too late to be able to help affected rabbits.

"Myxomatosis is preventable through vaccination and protecting pet rabbits from disease and suffering should be a priority. I strongly advise owners to ask their vet about vaccinations, as well as how to minimise biting insects."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said myxomatosis is widespread among the wild rabbit population of Britain.

The department recommends vaccination for pet rabbits which are kept in rural areas and may come into contact with wild rabbits.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 25, 2008
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