A hare in County Wexford has been confirmed as having Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). Two rabbits, one in Clare and the other in Wicklow, have both also been found to carry the virus.
The disease is fatal to rabbits and hares, but of no risk to humans, its the first time its been confirmed in the wild in Ireland. Domestic Irish rabbits were found to have the virus last year.
RHD causes death within a few days of infection, sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth.
The three animals were tested at Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine laboratories where RHD2 was subsequently confirmed. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is asking the public to report any suspected cases to them.
The disease is highly contagious and can be spread directly between animals and in the faeces and urine of infected animals, as well as by insects and on human clothing.
As a result of the outbreak, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has decided to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club, to capture hares, for the 2019/20 coursing season, with immediate effect, until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread, and implications of the virus emerges.
Sightings can be reported to the NPWS through email on firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone on 1890 383 000.