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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 06:48 GMT
Seal virus fears recede
Dead seal
About 800 carcasses washed up on Scotland's coasts
The impact of a deadly virus which killed hundreds of seals in Scottish waters could have been worse, according to experts.

Scientists believe the threat of the Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) has now receded, leaving hundreds rather than thousands of dead animals.

Last time the virus hit the UK in the 1980s it killed almost 20,000 seals.

Experts predicted a similar story when it appeared again last summer.

Seal hospital
There is no cure for the deadly virus
But while 2,000 of the animals have died in England, about 800 carcasses have turned up on Scotland's coasts - and not all the deaths are due to the virus.

One theory is that because the disease arrived comparatively late in the year many seals were back in the water, where the virus is less likely to spread.

The current cold snap means they are likely to stay offshore, not group closely together on land.

There is no known cure for the virus, nor any way of preventing it.

In 1988, an outbreak of the PDV virus caused the death of 17-18,000 common seals and 300-400 grey seals throughout northern Europe.

In Scotland more than 1,300 common seals died.

See also:

26 Nov 02 | England
02 Oct 02 | Scotland
18 Sep 02 | England
18 Sep 02 | England
14 Aug 02 | Scotland
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