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MYXOMATOSIS is a disease of wild European and domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) caused by infection with myxoma virus, which is found naturally in some Sylvilagus rabbit species of South America and California. Sylvilagus species show few clinical signs. However, myxomatosis was introduced into Australia (1950), continental Europe (1952), Great Britain (1953) and Ireland (1954). This was as a control method for wild European rabbits. The initial mortality in Great Britain was 99 per cent. Myxomatosis is normally transmitted between host rabbits when virus particles adhere to the piercing mouthparts of a biting insect vector. In Great Britain the rabbit flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi) is the most important vector of the disease. Other blood-sucking insects may play a minor role as vectors in some circumstances.
Myxomatosis has rarely been reported in the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus). Initial experimental inoculation in 1937 of wild-caught brown hares in Australia using virulent myxoma virus from rabbits failed to elicit disease …
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