US probes mystery disease killing Arctic seals

Oct 15, 2011
A seal pup lays on an ice floe. US scientists are hoping to uncover answers behind a mysterious disease that has emerged in Arctic seal populations, causing skin lesions, lethargy and death, officials said Friday.

US scientists are hoping to uncover answers behind a mysterious disease that has emerged in Arctic seal populations, causing skin lesions, lethargy and death, officials said Friday.

Since July there have been at least 107 recorded cases of stranded on the north coast of Alaska, said researchers with the (NOAA) Fisheries and other international groups.

The seals have been seen with , hair loss and skin ulcers, while some have exhibited lethargy and labored breathing, officials said.

Nearly half of the animals were dead when found, or died shortly after, said NOAA in a statement.

Similar cases of the mystery illness have been reported in Russia and Canada, as well as in some walruses in Alaska.

Lab tests for the disease's origin have been "inconclusive," and officials said it "is not known if the condition can be passed from the seals to humans."

NOAA warned against eating any sick or diseased animals or handling them without proper protection garments.

Explore further: Genetic study shows major impact of climate change on Antarctic fur seals

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1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2011
I feel particularly saddened by this article because I love seals. They have some of the most adorable faces with big, sad-looking eyes, that I just melt and want to hug the dickens out of them. I hope that a cause and cure is found as soon as possible. Harp seal babies are my favorite. It angers me to know that people in this world hunt these babies for their fur and leave them to die while slaughtering all they can find. It also breaks my heart when I see pictures of killer whales grabbing a cute seal, tossing it about and then feasting on it. I understand the necessity of it, but it's still hurtful to see. Nature is cruel. . . . I know that the killer whales have to eat also. But I just wish that men would not go out hunting for these darling babies, club them and leave them bleeding to death for profit.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2011
no doubt this will be some sort of distemper or parvovirus that has been ravaging all sorts of wild sea mammals, which thanks to the shared ancestry with dogs and cats seem especially suseptable to their diseases. They are exposed to the disease causing organisms thanks to the fecal waste of both dogs and cats being washed out to sea mostly thanks to offshore sewage disposal by most coastline cities.