No need for alarm over 'rabbit flu'

HEALTH experts have today urged the public not to panic about rabbit flu despite confirming a Suffolk farmer was the first person to die of the disease in three years.

HEALTH experts have today urged the public not to panic about rabbit flu despite confirming a Suffolk farmer was the first person to die of the disease in three years.

As exclusively revealed in The Evening Star on Saturday, John Freeman died just four days after he contracted the disease after going out shooting rabbits on his parent's farm in Aspall.

Today experts from the Health Protection Agency confirmed there have only been four fatal cases of the disease reported between 1993 and 2005, the last being in 2003.

But experts have said it would be extremely rare for another case to happen such as that of the 29-year-old who died from septicaemia.


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It is thought Mr Freeman contacted the blood poisoning after body fluids from the infected rabbit got into his body through a blister.

A spokesman for the Heath Protection Agency said around half of all dogs and cats were infected by pasteuralla multocida - the disease which has been dubbed rabbit flu.

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The spokesman said there were around 400 cases a year of it passing to humans although there have not been any other known cases where a person has died from the disease.

The spokesman added: “There is no need to panic at all.

“It is not an uncommon infection - it's just uncommon that someone should die from it.”

But Mr Freeman's mother, Joan, is concerned that others may face the same fate as her only son did.

Mrs Freeman said she is concerned there is little information about the disease among the farming community.

She said: “I want to find out how endemic this disease is.

“If it is carried by lots of rabbits then I can't see how this isn't at risk of happening to others.

“It might even be endemic in foxes too.”

John Freeman died at Ipswich Hospital on August 5.

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