Influenza virus is the cause of seal death

Influenza virus is the cause of seal death

Seal die-off: no distemper virus detectable

Like Dr. Hendrik Brunckhorst, spokesman for the national park administration in the State Office for Coastal Protection, National Park and Marine Protection Schleswig-Holstein in Tönning, has reported an increased occurrence of seriously ill and dead seals on the North Sea coast of Schleswig-Holstein since the beginning of October. 350 seals were found on Helgoland, Sylt, Amrum and Föhr. To determine the cause, some of the animals were sent to the Hanover Veterinary University in Büsum and Hanover.

The result of the investigation was that the animals are suffering from pneumonia, have lung worms and are also infected with streptococci. The cause of the death is probably an influenza virus that was found in a large number of the animals examined. This will now be examined in more detail. However, the feared distemper virus, which had led to a mass extinction among the seals in 1988 and 2002, could not be detected. At that time, 60 and 40 percent of the holdings had died. Overall, the mortality rate among the animals is then below that of the two accumulation epidemics at the time.

Keeping a distance, keeping dogs on a leash In general, people must keep their distance from animals, never touch them and keep dogs on a leash to prevent possible transmission of the pathogens. In principle, the seals can also transmit some viruses and bacteria to humans.

If the seal dieback is increasing or spreading, the state agency for coastal protection, national park and marine protection (LKN-SH) and the seal hunters are well prepared, Dr. Detlef Hansen Head of the National Park Administration: "Together with the other authorities and institutions involved, we have further developed the action plan that has proven itself in the traffic jam epidemic with its traffic light system 'Green-Yellow-Red'. It stipulates for the entire west coast how larger amounts of dead animals are recovered and disposed of. We are now in the green level, where everything can still be managed with the usual logistics. Most of our work is done by our specially trained seal hunters who work on a voluntary basis. They often have a difficult job in the literal sense. Sometimes they have to rescue critically ill animals from their suffering. My respect and thanks go to them. "

The seal population is not endangered, says Hansen: “We assume that the seal flu is a natural process. Our national parks are places where natural processes are possible and wanted. The principle of 'let nature be nature' applies here. Nature is not just blooming salt marshes and huge flocks of birds. Death is also part of nature, ”continues Hansen. (jp)

Image: Roland Pfeifer /

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