BOSTON (CBS) – Researchers studying the death of more than 100 seals along the New England coast say a new strain of avian flu is the cause.
Over the course of three months in the fall of 2011, baby seals began washing up along the coast, from southern Maine to northern Massachusetts, baffling marine biologists. Most of the seals were infants, under six months old.
“When initial tests revealed an avian influenza virus, we asked the question: how did this virus jump from birds to seals?” says Simon Anthony of the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The report reveals the seals died from ‘H3N8’, a virus that’s been circulating in North American waterfowl since 2002, and has now jumped from birds to seals.
Scientist also say, given these findings, and the long history of the spread of avian flu to humans, including H1N1 and H5N1, ‘Seal H3N8’ could pose a threat to public health.