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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Deadly seal virus returns to UK
Common seal   SMRU
Five seals have died from the virus in the UK
A fatal virus that has killed seals throughout northern Europe has returned to UK waters, wildlife experts have confirmed.

Tests carried out on five seals found off the coast of Lincolnshire and East Anglia have confirmed they died from phocine distemper virus (PDV).

The animals - two adults and three pups - were found two weeks ago and taken to the Norfolk Wildlife Hospital.

The disease was last found in Europe in 1988, when some 18,000 seals - or half the northern European total - were wiped out.

Greay seal pup
Some 18,000 seals died from PDV in 1988

The virus returned to Denmark in May 2002, and has so far killed 2,000 seals in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Holland and northern France have also been affected.

Since then, wildlife experts have warned it was only a matter of time before the virus hit British shores.

Initial results of tests carried out on seals found at the end of July proved negative.

However the RSPCA which runs the wildlife hospital, said latest results were positive.

The highly infectious virus is similar to dog distemper and cannot be treated.

It attacks the seals' immune system and leaves them open to infection.

Harbour seals can travel hundreds of miles in days, causing the virus to spread quickly.


click here to go to Lincolnshire

Click here to go to Norfolk
See also:

27 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
12 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
10 May 01 | Science/Nature
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