Subject: Seals dying from mystery disease (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 3 Apr 1998 14:13:54 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 22:10:32 -0800
From: MARMAM Editors <marmamed@UVic.CA>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Seals dying from mystery disease (fwd)

Subject: Seals dying from mystery disease in New Jersey

    BRIGANTINE, N.J., April 1 (Reuters) - Seals in New Jersey
have been dying in unusually high numbers from a mysterious
disease that starts with a cough and a runny nose, a leading
animal treatment facility said on Wednesday.
     The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey
northeast of Atlantic City, reported that one-third of the 31
seals brought to its facility this year have died so far. That
is more than double the usual mortality rate of 14 percent.
     The disease has been found among all four local seal species
-- gray, harbor, harp and hooded. But hooded seals, an Arctic
species that winters along the U.S. mid-Atlantic Coast, have had
the worst of it. Only two of six hooded seals treated at the
stranding center have survived.
     Researchers are trying to determine whether the sick seals
brought to the center are suffering from a virus. Some have died
just hours after arriving at the facility.
     "We aren't sure it's a virus, or anything else right now,"
said the center's director, Robert Schoelkopf.
     The disease responsible for the deaths begins with coughing
and nasal discharges and leads to a loss of appetite. Death
occurs through respiratory failure.
     Biologists hope to learn more about the illness from
veterinary labs at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell
University and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in
Maryland, which have all received tissue samples for analysis.
     Peter Stivick, a research associate at the College of the
Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, said the unusually high seal
death rates were largely confined to New Jersey. "Most of ours
appear to be fat and healthy," he said.
     Researchers also noted that hooded seals have been ranging
further south and in larger numbers recently. The New Jersey and
Delaware coasts traditionally have marked the southern boundary
of their territory. But in recent years, some have turned up in
Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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