PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An uncommon variety of seals have gotten stranded and dying off Maine this summer season, and avian influenza is guilty, the federal authorities stated Tuesday.
The U.S. Division of Agriculture has confirmed that samples from 4 Maine seals examined constructive for the virus. The animals all died or required euthanasia, the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated.
Marine mammal rescuers began to note an unusually excessive variety of seal strandings in June, after which the USDA performed the checks, NOAA stated in a press release. The speed of lifeless seal strandings in Maine is about thrice the traditional fee for the summer season and is near 60, the company stated.
The USDA is notifying the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention and state animal and public well being officers concerning the deaths, which got here after a fowl flu outbreak that led to the deaths of tens of millions of chickens and turkeys on farms. The virus is able to leaping to mammals, although it hardly ever impacts people.
It’s not the primary occasion of fowl flu leaping to marine mammals corresponding to seals, however the federal authorities is monitoring the deaths intently nonetheless, stated Allison Ferreira, a NOAA spokesperson.
“There’s a nationwide outbreak of avian flu occurring, in order that was the reason for concern for these animals,” Ferreira stated.
A lot of the seals which have been based stranded in Maine this summer season have been lifeless, NOAA stated. The lifeless seals have included grey seals and harbor seals.
The well being danger “posed by avian flu to most of the people is low; nevertheless, precautions are really useful,” NOAA’s assertion stated. The company stated folks and pets ought to by no means strategy seals, and will contact authorities in the event that they discover an animal they imagine is stranded.
Elsewhere in New England, a whole bunch of birds have washed up lifeless on Martha’s Winery, and native officers have sounded the alarm about a possible bird flu outbreak.
The supply of the outbreak amongst seals remains to be being investigated.
Marine Mammals of Maine, a rescue group, that it has responded to 40 stranded seals since June 1. Katy Inexperienced, a spokesperson for the group, stated it’s “conscious of this evolving scenario” and dealing with NOAA on it.
Grey seals and harbor seals are plentiful off New England, the place they’re beloved by wildlife watchers and generally bemoaned by fishermen. Nonetheless, the fowl flu deaths don’t symbolize the primary time they’ve died off at an alarming fee.
NOAA declared an “uncommon mortality occasion” for the seals after greater than 2,700 of them stranded off Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts from July 2018 to March 2020. Feds attributed these deaths to phocine distemper virus. That virus doesn’t impression people.