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An Epizootic of Seal Pox in Pinnipeds at a Rehabilitation Center

Barkley E. Hastings, Linda J. Lowenstine, Laurie J. Gage and Robert J. Munn
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Vol. 20, No. 3, Infectious Diseases Issue (Sep., 1989), pp. 282-290
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20094962
Page Count: 9
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An Epizootic of Seal Pox in Pinnipeds at a Rehabilitation Center
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Abstract

An epizootic of cutaneous nodules occurred in three species of pinnipeds at the California Marine Mammal Center during the summer of 1986. One harbor seal pup (Phoca vitulina richardsi) developed nodules initially. Nodules then developed on all other harbor seals, one California seal lion (Zalophus californianus), and at least two northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Excisional biopsies of nodules from two harbor seals and one elephant seal demonstrated epidermal cytoplasmic inclusion bodies compatible with poxvirus infection. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of poxvirus in a harbor seal nodule. The chronology of the outbreak suggested transmission of the virus as a propagating epizootic among harbor seals and then passage to elephant seals and possibly to the sea lion. This is believed to be the first documentation of poxvirus infection in northern elephant seals and transmission among pinniped species.

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