Dead Seals in Maine Test Positive for Deadly Viruses
There has been a spike of seal deaths in New England this month, with hundreds of carcasses washing ashore along the Maine coast and alarming scientists and officials alike. Over 100 bodies were discovered South of Portland in just the last two weeks. Officials have been running several tests to investigate the cause of death and found alarming results.
Many of the recently washed-ashore seal carcasses tested positive for avian flu and distemper, according to the Press Herald. Four of the bodies tested positive for both. Despite these results, coupled with the fact that reports of dead seals keep rolling in from rescuers, the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration claims they can't yet draw definite conclusions.
“We have many more samples to process and analyze, so it is still too soon to determine if either or both of those viruses are the primary cause of the mortality event,” NOAA spokesperson Jennifer Goebel said.
Lynda Doughty, executive director of Marine Mammals of Maine, expressed her relief at the information rolling in. She said she wasn't shocked with preliminary results, as the seals' symptoms were consistent with the viruses.
“I’m glad it’s not something new,” Doughty said. “We’re committed to keep sampling these animals to learn more about what else might be going on.”
While this strain of avian flu is not transmittable to humans, officials are closely monitoring the mortality event as viruses change rapidly and could mutate to a strain that is infectious to humans. Doughty and her team use protective gear when examining the seals and advise humans to steer clear and keep dogs away.