A WILDLIFE charity has issued advice to Basingstoke residents after a suspected outbreak of a severe viral disease among rabbits.

There are reports that several rabbits on Basingstoke Common are suffering from myxomatosis, a usually-fatal disease that is extremely contagious.

One Facebook user took to Spotted Basingstoke to say she found three rabbits on the Common which she believed was suffering from the disease - two of which were dead and one of which was still alive.

But a wildlife rescue charity has reassured residents of the town that myxomatosis is not zoonotic - that is, it is not dangerous to humans - but that pet owners should take extra care.

Amy Evans, general assistant manager, from HART Wildlife Rescue, told The Gazette: “The best advice we can give is to advise people to get the rabbits to the vets as they will be contagious, and they will be suffering.

“They will not be contagious to humans but anyone who has other pets should be careful. The best thing to do is wrap them in a blanket or towel and take them into the local vets.

“They will sadly eventually die so rather than let nature take its course it is better to take them to the vets or contact your local wildlife centre.”

Ms Evans said that sadly nothing can be done for the rabbits, and they will need to be put to sleep but the motivation was about saving the rest of the population.

According to the Blue Cross, myxomatosis is a severe, usually fatal, viral disease that has in some countries been used as a population control method among rabbits.

The acute form can kill a rabbit within 10 days and the chronic form within two weeks.

It is spread by insects such as fleas and ticks, and can cause: swelling, redness and/or ulcers; nasal and eye discharge; blindness caused by inflammation of the eyes; respiratory problems; loss of appetite; and lethargy.

The organisation says that rabbits suspected to have myxomatosis should be confined, whilst those handling rabbits with the disease should wear gloves and wash their hands after touching the rabbit.

It cannot be transferred to pets other than rabbits, the Blue Cross say.