Evidence of a contagious virus which kills rabbits and hares within days of infection has been discovered in Wexford.
A wild hare found to have died from Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHD2) was reportedly located in the South of the county last month. Wexford is one of six counties across the country to have confirmed reports of the disease, with Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow the others.
Although deadly to rabbits and hares the disease is not harmful to humans and infected animals, dead or alive, can be handled without fear of contagion. A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said, 'People worried about their pet rabbits should contact their vet. There is a vaccine available.'
The disease is not harmful to other domestic animals and that neither dogs nor cats could contract it.
12 animals nationwide have been discovered to have died from the disease which causes partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouths of infected rabbits and hares. The virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted via food, water, infected droppings or birds.
As a result of this outbreak, the catching of hares in nets and the holding of the animal in confined areas has been suspended until the virus can be more clearly understood.
Previous outbreaks saw millions of domestic rabbits die in China in the 1980s. The public is asked to be on high alert and to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and hares by contacting the National Park and Wildlife Service (NPWS) 1890 383 000.