A number of wild rabbits have reported with an incurable disease in Furness.

A wild rabbit with myxomatosis was sighted at Kirkstall Close in Barrow yesterday (June 18) and was collected by a local resident to be put to sleep by a vet.

Local wildlife rescuer Rachel Wilson, of Rachel's Wildlife, confirmed this is the third rabbit myxomatosis she has been made aware of this week. 

Two have also been reported in Ulverston with more isolated sightings in Marton and Lindal.

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For wild rabbits and un-vaccinated pet rabbits, myxomatosis is usually fatal.

The condition is spread between the animals at close contact as well as by environmental contamination and insect, flea and mosquito bites.

The disease was introduced to Great Britain in 1953 as a way to control wild rabbit populations.

It does not affect humans and according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it no longer has a significant impact on wild rabbit populations.

In the 70 years since the virus first came to the country, modern wild rabbits have largely developed resistance to it.  

It is still very dangerous for domestic rabbits however and Defra encourages members of the public and organisations to report any incidents of mass mortality in wildlife (two or more dead animals together), to their local APHA Veterinary Investigation Centre. 

In reference to the wild rabbit recently spotted in Barrow, an RSPCA spokesperson said: "This case shows why vaccinations against awful diseases like this are so important in protecting our pets. 

"Myxomatosis is a highly infectious and fatal disease which can affect both domestic and wild rabbits. It can be spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitoes, as well as direct contact between infected animals.

"The symptoms include lesions on the head or body, swelling around the lips, nose, eyes and ears, runny eyes and severe conjunctivitis which can lead to blindness.

"The disease is widespread in wild rabbits in the UK and sadly there's no treatment or cure for it, so euthanasia is the only option for infected animals. 

"Pet rabbits, however, can be easily vaccinated from five-weeks-old to prevent them from getting this awful disease and the RSPCA always recommends that owners take this course of action.

"Any suffering wild rabbit that can be contained should be taken to the nearest vet. In the earlier stages of the disease, rabbits with myxomatosis may remain quite mobile and will evade any attempts to capture.

"However, deterioration may later mean they can be caught, and we would advise people to monitor the situation on a daily basis. 

"When confining the rabbit please remember to wear thick gloves at all times and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the animal.

"You can find more advice about handling and transporting wild rabbits on the RSPCA’s website."