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‘New’ Seal Flu Blamed For Mass Seal Deaths Across New England

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Harbor Seals (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Harbor Seals (Photo Credit: NOAA)

BOSTON (AP) — Scientists say an influenza virus similar to one found in birds but never before found in harbor seals has been linked to the recent spate of seal deaths off the coast of northern New England.

Since September, 162 seals have been found dead off northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Tests on five of the animals showed the influenza virus subtype, H3N8, as the cause of death. Additional tests will determine what role the virus played in the broader die-off. Scientists say the virus appears to have low risk for transmission to humans.

Experts believe the virus caused a bacterial pneumonia that killed the seals.

The same virus is usually associated with wild birds, and causes upper respiratory infections. But scientists say most land animals hit with it recovered.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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