A potentially deadly disease affecting marine mammals, including seals and sea otters, has been passed from the North Atlantic Ocean to the northern Pacific thanks to the melting of the Arctic sea ice.
Experts have long been concerned that sea ice melting in the northern oceans, caused by global climate heating, could allow previously geographically limited diseases to be transmitted between the two oceans.
Now scientists believe they have identified how an outbreak of distemper, similar to that suffered by dogs, was passed from northern seal populations to Alaskan seals and sea otters .
“There’s long been concern that melting Arctic sea ice could allow disease to pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific,” Tracey Goldstein, an expert in marine animal diseases at the University of California, Davis, and one of the lead authors of a report, said.“Now here we are.”
Phocine distemper virus, or PDV, has long been a threat to seal populations in the northern Atlantic, along with several strains of influenza, but had not previously been identified in the Pacific.It was first recognised in 1988 following a massive epidemic in harbour and grey seals in north-western Europe with a second event of similar magnitude and extent in 2002.The 1988 outbreak killed thousands of Britain’s seals.
Read More At The Guardian
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