Killer Rabbit Disease

Every year thousands of rabbits get killed across the globe without giving much chance to the pet-owners to save them. The disease responsible is called Myxomatosis. Here are some important facts:

Myxomatosis: It is a highly contagious viral disease caused by a virus that affects the American wild rabbit (genus Sylvilagus). Though hares are resistant to this disease, they carry the virus. If the domestic breeds get infected, the disease almost always proves to be fatal within 6 to 15 days. The economic and environmental losses from this disease are extremely high. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with sick rabbits or indirect path via arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes, fleas, ticks or lice whose mouthparts transfer the virus to the hosts. Transmission can also occur through mechanical vectors such as cages, needles, feeders and food contaminated by excretions. Myxomatosis is subject to annual outbreaks, depending on the climate, the region and also the amount and type of insect vectors. So, the hot and humid months (spring, summer and autumn) are the periods of greatest risk. Mortality rates recorded in first half of 2005 were 99% and the virulence of the agent progressively decreased due to the development of genetic resistance in some rabbit populations and especially the spontaneous appearance of attenuated virus strains, reducing the mortality rate to 50-75% and increasing duration of disease (6 to 30 days). Some of these little virulent strains play a key role in functioning as natural vaccines since the rabbits that survive the infection develop a strong immune response to infection by more virulent strains. Despite the decreased incidence of Myxomatosis, it is noteworthy that this disease is still responsible, directly or indirectly (as it facilitates predation) for the death of about 35% of rabbits every year!

The main clinical manifestations of Myxomatosis can arise in two clinical forms: Classical or nodular form. After incubation period the rabbit shows edema and nodules (myxomas) in the head (blepharoconjunctivitis) and anogenital area, extending later to the whole body and thereby causing death 10 to 15 days after infection.

Atypical or respiratory: Myxomatosis arises in these cases associated with respiratory symptoms without the appearance of typical myxomas and the symptoms include inflammatory lesions on the eyelids, conjunctiva, nose, bleeding and bacterial pneumonia of the lungs.

The disease is hardly treatable, but you can prevent it by cleaning the cages with disinfectants regularly and by preventing the animals from straying away from the farm.

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