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Bird flu virus tied to New England seal deaths

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12/24/2011 01:53 AM
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Bird flu virus tied to New England seal deaths
"BOSTON - An influenza virus similar to one found in wild birds but never before seen in seals has been linked to the recent spate of harbor seal deaths off northern New England, scientists said Tuesday.

Since Sept. 1, 162 seals have been found dead from northern Massachusetts to Maine.

The die-off struck young seals and was most intense in September and October, when deaths were about three to four times the normal number, said Charles Innes, the New England Aquarium's health director. The death rate has since slowed to normal levels.

Tests on five of the dead animals - all from New Hampshire - showed they suffered a bacterial pneumonia caused by the influenza virus subtype, H3N8. Tests are continuing to determine what role the virus played in the broader seal die-off, researchers said."

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