Studies on leoprosy in red squirrels to start on Bownsea Island in Poole Harbour

Several cases of a strain of leprosy bacteria were found in red squirrels in Scotland in 2014 and it may have been present in squirrel populations for a long time. Leprosy has also been identified in squirrels from the Isle of Wight, and Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour off the south coast of England. Brownsea Island is owned by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust and holds about 200 red squirrels. Studies on the island to get a better understanding of the disease and how to manage it are about to start under the direction  of Professor Anna Meredith of the University of Edinburgh. Although there is “negligible risk” to the public from the disease, visitors to the island are advised not to touch any wild animals and birds and maintain good hygiene practices such as hand washing. (BBC News, BT, ITV, Independent, The Guardian).

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