Myxomatosis is an infectious disease among rabbits which is related to the pox. In 1950, it was artificially introduced from Brazil, where it was discovered in the 1930's, into Australia to kill off the overpopulation of rabbits. Among Brazilian rabbits, it causes minor discomfort; among European species, it is fatal.
It was brought to France from Australia in 1953 by a Frenchman who wished to control the rabbit population on his estate near Paris, and spread, predictably, from there to Great Britain. It spreads through parasites, and not through direct contact, so a well-cared-for pet rabbit should not be at risk.
The disease usually kills in about two weeks. The first symptoms are blindness from the swelling of the tissue around the the eyes. At this point, feeding and drinking are difficult, and secondary symptoms that result from lack of nutrition can set in. Most wild rabbits, once blind, are easy prey for wolves and foxes. The natural progression of the disease ends with a fatal lung infection.
In 1955, Philip Larkin
wrote this poem about the disease, entitled (fittingly) "Myxomatosis."
Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
then clean my stick. I'm glad I can't explain
Just in what jaws you were to supporate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.