Myxomatosis is a viral disease of rabbits that is spread by the bite of a mosquito or, rarely, a flea. This disease is endemic to the west coast of the US, meaning it is always a threat to domestic rabbits and has been for many years.
Most cases of myxomatosis occur during the months of July through September when the mosquito population is at its highest. The virus lives is carried by the wild Brush Bunny rabbit population where it does not cause serious disease.
A mosquito bites a wild rabbit carrying the virus, then bites a domestic rabbit spreading the disease. It can also be spread from a sick domestic rabbit to another domestic rabbit via a bite from a mosquito or from direct contact of body secretions. Humans can spread it between rabbits on hands and clothes. It cannot be spread from rabbit to human, even through a mosquito bite.
Signs of myxomatosis in the domestic rabbit appear 5-14 days after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus. Signs include swelling around the eyes, lips, ears and genitals, high fever, lethargy and poor appetite. There is no cure and treatment is rarely successful. This disease has a 100% mortality rate.
Veterinarians recommend that all domestic rabbits be kept indoors with screened windows and doors to prevent access to mosquitoes.
If you have any questions about myxomatosis, please contact your veterinarian.