Memories of rabbit flu deaths

A SUFFOLK man's death from “rabbit flu” brought back memories today for a Felixstowe pensioner who lost three members of his family after contact with the animals.

A SUFFOLK man's death from “rabbit flu” brought back memories today for a Felixstowe pensioner who lost three members of his family after contact with the animals.

Dennis Bryan's aunt and his grandparents died after eating rabbit or coming into contact with rabbits back in 1910. A neighbour also died at the same time from what some then called a rabbit plague.

Mr Bryan, 77 of Runnacles Way said: “Even back then, a pathologist spoke in the newspapers of this being some kind of rabbit flu,” “My mother was living in the house with my aunt, her sister, and her parents at the time, but she survived.

“They had not all eaten the rabbit - some of them had only handled it. It was a real mystery at the time but I think it shows that rabbit flu has been about a lot longer than some people think.”

The incident happened at Freston, near Ipswich, and the cottage in which her grandfather Francis Chapman and his wife and daughter lived and died is still there today. A few years later there was another incident in which a sailor died at Shotley after catching and skinning a rabbit.

Mr Bryan, who lives with his wife Iris said: “When my grandparents and aunt were buried in the churchyard they spread the graves with quicklime to stop the disease spreading.

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“I think this rabbit flu is very rare, but there certainly appears to have been cases before.

“I don't think people should be worrying but it is something we need to be careful about, especially as it apparently can also be caught from dogs and cats.”

Are you concerned about the disease? Do you think more details should have been made available before? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

As revealed in last week's Evening Star, John Freeman, 29, died after becoming infected with the bacteria pasteurella multocida after picking up a rabbit on his farm. He fell ill the next day with a fever and died three days later. It is believed the bacteria passed into his blood stream via a blister he had on his thumb.

His parents Joan and Peter Freeman, who farm at Aspall, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, spoke out following their son's death to appeal for greater awareness of the bacterium that caused his death.

The Health Protection Agency said recordings for the amount of people to die from the disease in the UK only started in 1993 and there have only been four deaths since then.

A spokesman said: “Two of those died of bites from cats and as far as the information we have there was not any contact with animals for the other two.”

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