Swine flu found in elephant seals off California
by Associated Press Wire
May 16, 2013 01:30 PM | 341 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — Researchers have detected swine flu in elephant seals off the Central California coast, saying it was the first time a human pandemic strain has been found in marine mammals.

However, none of the animals showed clinical signs of the illness.

A University of California, Davis study found the seals contracted the H1N1 virus in 2010, as the pandemic caused by the virus was winding down in humans, the Contra Costa Times reported Wednesday.

The influenza virus commonly crosses species barriers, and it wasn't the first time a marine mammal has been found to carry a human strain, UC Davis professor Tracey Goldstein told the newspaper. However, until now researchers had never found a human pandemic strain in marine mammals, Goldstein said.

Researchers still aren't sure exactly how the seals contracted the virus but said it's unlikely it came from direct contact with people. The researchers raised the possibility that seabirds may have passed on the virus.

"The data suggest the animals were exposed when they were at sea, or coming into the nearshore environment," Goldstein said.

UC Davis wildlife biologists swabbed the noses of 72 elephant seals over the course of two years at Ano Nuevo State Reserve in San Mateo County and Piedras Blancas in San Simeon. The animals were sampled before and after their annual spring foraging trip to Alaskan waters.

The animals tested clean before departure, but two came back bearing the virus in 2010, the newspaper said. A year later, 16 elephant seal pups had blood tests showing they had been exposed to the virus.

Goldstein said the presence of H1N1 in seals is not a cause for alarm.

"It's just a general reminder to people who work with animals to make sure that they protect themselves," she said.

The study was published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The 2009 H1N1 outbreak started a global pandemic that killed as many as half a million people.

___

Information from: Contra Costa Times, http://www.contracostatimes.com



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, spam, and links to outside websites will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides