Epizootics in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina): clinical aspects
AbstractEpizootic diseases causing considerable mortality in harbour seal populations have mainly been reported from the waters of the United States and Europe. Such die-offs were largely attributable to viral infections. Several hundred individuals died from respiratory infections caused by Influenza A viruses at the coast of New England, USA, in 1979, 1980 and 1982. More than 53,000 harbour seals were killed in European waters by Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV), a morbillivirus,in two outbreaks in 1988 and 2002. For several other epizootics of smaller scale in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific coast of the USA and, most recently, in Danish and Swedish waters in 2007 the causes remain unclear, although characteristic respiratory symptoms and interstitial pneumonia suspicious of viral etiology were detected as well as occasionally bacterial infections caused by Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Mass mortalities caused by biotoxins, direct human interactions or changes in oceanographic conditions have so far not been described for harbour seals. However, high organochlorine loads detected in European harbour seal populations and suspected to impede immune functions, were considered an aggravating factor in the 1988 morbillivirus epizootic. Establishing supranational stranding networks is a key prerequisite for the detection of future unusual die-offs in marine mammals. Detailed post-mortem investigations of all organ systems are essential for targeted etiological studies towards the causes of mass mortalities in seals.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (SeeThe Effect of Open Access).