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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 14:28 GMT
Devastating seal virus is over
Dead seal
Many seals were found washed up on beaches
The RSPCA has said an outbreak of distemper which killed hundreds of seals has come to an end.

About 1,500 seals in the Wash have died, estimated to be about half the population on the East Coast of England.

Experts from the Zoological Society of London, which has been monitoring the Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) outbreak, said it could take 10 years for populations to recover.

The outbreak began in Scandinavia last spring and reached the coastlines of Norfolk and Lincolnshire in the summer.

Pollution blamed

The previous report of the virus had been in 1988 but this latest outbreak has been far more devastating to seal numbers.

Seal hospital
Seals were treated at specialist centres
It is suspected that pollution has caused problems by possibly weakening seals' immune systems and making them more vulnerable to the virus.

RSPCA superintendent Tim Wass said it is not known how many animals are left but the situation is not looking good.

He said: "We will know in the Spring when we do the head count.

"We use boats and helicopters to go over the sandbars off the coast - we will have a better picture then exactly what the numbers are.

"At the moment I'm afraid it is a pretty gloomy prediction."


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See also:

18 Sep 02 | England
18 Sep 02 | England
11 Sep 02 | England
14 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
12 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
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