Wight Squirrel Project Newsletter – Autumn 2017

Leprosy testing in IOW squirrels

Leprosy was first diagnosed in red squirrels on the Isle of Wight in 2015. Visual signs to look for are unusual ear and skin lesions, although animals with the leprosy bacteria do not always have symptoms. Helen collected ear samples during routine post-mortem examinations she did on 93 squirrels found dead from all around the Island. Deaths due to natural or unknown causes accounted for 33% of cases and 67% ere as a direct result of human activity, especially road traffic. Helen took the samples to Moredun Research Institute and, after training, tested them for leprosy. Only one out of the samples proved positive. The affected squirrel was an adult male that was a road traffic accident in 2016. There were no visible signs of leprosy. It would be interesting to know if there has ever been a leprosy hospital on the Isle of Wight. Are there any historians out there? In the past we have had two confirmed cases of leprosy in squirrels on the Isle of Wight, one had died in 2004 and the second in 2011. The infection is at a low level in the population and has almost certainly been present on the island – and the rest of the country – for a long time. Read more>>

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