An avian flu jumped to baby seals

July 31, 2012 at 9:49 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) -- An avian flu circulating in birds since 2002 jumped to baby seals in New England and this jump to mammals may threaten humans, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, New England Aquarium, U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, SeaWorld and EcoHealth Alliance first became concerned in September 2011, when seals with severe pneumonia and skin lesions suddenly appeared along the coastline from southern Maine to northern Massachusetts.

Most of the seals were infants -- 6 months and younger -- and a total of 162 dead or moribund seals were recovered over the next three months, the officials said.

W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University said pathogen screening was conducted in a subset of the afflicted seals and using sensitive diagnostic tools a new strain of avian H3N8 influenza virus was identified as a culprit.

The study, published in mBio, said based on full genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, seal H3N8 descended from an avian strain in North American waterfowl since 2002, which implies recent transmission from wild birds to seals.

Given these findings along with the long history of the spread of avian influenza to humans -- notably H1N1 and H5N1 -- seal H3N8 could pose a threat to public health, Lipkin said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Featured UPI Collection
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]

Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
Fewer prescription pill overdoses in medical marijuana states
New data shows Melbourne is most well-rested city in the world
New research details rare cancer that killed Bob Marley
Daughters more likely than sons to care for elder parents
Poll: 26 percent of Americans believe they will get Ebola
Trending News