Rabbits have illness transmissible to humans

A SERIOUS illness, capable of transmission to humans, is affecting rabbits and hares in Portugal, according to the Federação Portuguesa de Caçadores e Proprietários (FPCP), the Portuguese federation of hunters.

Eduardo Biscaia, secretary general of the FPCP, has cited veterinary doctors’ post-mortems noting the presence of tularaemia in the liver, spleen and lungs of some animals. Biscaia claimed that the infected animals had arrived from Spain, where cases of rabbits infected with tularaemia were recorded five years ago. Tularaemia, symptoms of which include flu like illness, tonsillitis, pneumonia and ulcers, can infect humans who come into contact with animals’ blood.

The National Veterinary Directorate has, so far, refused to acknowledge the existence of the illness in Portugal. The directorate’s assistant head, Fernando Bernardo, claims that tularaemia can sometimes be confused with other viral illnesses, but says the organisation is carrying out further tests.