Myxomatosis is not native to Britain, but was deliberately introduced from France in 1953 to control the wild rabbit population. It was rapidly fatal and over 99% of wild rabbits died. The virus has mutated and is now less severe, and to some extent wild rabbits have developed resistance.
Domestic rabbits are still very vulnerable, and the best protection is annual vaccination with Nobivac. The myxomatosis virus is spread by biting insects and rabbit fleas, with an incubation period of between 5-14 days. The rabbit develops discharging swollen eyes, causing blindness, swollen ears and genitals and a prolonged illness usually resulting in death. It is still possible for a vaccinated rabbit to get myxomatosis, but is much more likely to survive.
It is most prevalent where wild rabbits are common, but as biting insects can fly many miles, no domestic rabbit can be considered safe. It is strongly recommended that owners vaccinate against myxomatosis and both forms of viral haemorrhagic disease. Nobivac protects against VHD1 as well as myxomatosis, but a separate vaccine is required to protect against RVHD2.