Here at the RWAF we have been asked, over the past week or so, about Myxomatosis in native wild brown hares in the UK. Its important to be aware that this information is subject to change as the investigating continues, but is correct at time of posting.
Sporadic cases have been reported in the past, of suspected of confirmed myxomatosis in hares, including one which was written up in the veterinary press in 2014. However, this appears to be different in that multiple cases, from a wide geographical spread, are being reported to Dr Diana Bell, University of East Anglia <email@example.com>, and, whilst some have obvious external symptoms of myxomatosis, other dead hares look fine/in good condition or are seen dying with unusual neurological symptoms including inability to move and seizures. A number of possible causes are being explored, including a change in virulence of myxomatosis virus, infection with Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RHD2), or European Brown Hare Syndrome, individually or as co-infections, and its possible that other factors are involved.
What would really help the ongoing study into the large scale deaths of this iconic species, would be for any members of the public finding a dead or ill hare to contact Dr Bell and to store the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange full post-mortem analysis.