Archive from 2002 - Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV)
What is it?
PDV was first identified in 1988 when a mass outbreak amongst seals in Northern Europe killed over 18,000 animals. The virus is similar to distemper virus caught by dogs and is highly infectious. It spreads between animals in close contact in much the same way as a cold spreads in humans. On 13th August 2002, tissue samples from dead seals in Norfolk confirmed that this virus has again hit the UK seal population.

PDV mainly affects common seals of which there are approximately 30,000 around the UK. Grey seals were far less susceptible to the disease during the last outbreak but it is not yet clear whether or not they will be hit harder this time. There are approximately 115,000 grey seals around the UK.
What are we doing?
We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. The seal rescue facilities at Gweek, Oban, Hunstanton, Scarborough and Blankenberge are working together in conjunction with the RSPCA and other rescue groups to protect as many seals as possible. The marine mammals vets from the International Zoo Veterinary Group are working closely with the Sea Life´s experienced animal care teams to minimise the impact of the disease.

Healthy seals from Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary have been moved to Scarborough Marine Sanctuary which is acting as a safe haven for pups and resident seals. Normally the pups would be released back into the wild but this is not possible during the virus outbreak. By moving the healthy seals, Hunstanton can now take rescued seals into their hospital.
How can you help us?
Never approach a sick seal and keep dogs well away - they could carry the disease and speed the spread of infection. Some diseases carried by sick or dead seals may also be transmissible to humans.

It is important that people report any sick or dead seals immediately. This helps us assess the location and spread of the disease and the outbreak at the time.

DEFRA have set up a national PDV hotline:- 0871 244 7999

Our seal rescue work is funded entirely by our visitors and seal sponsors. Your continued support will help us to help them. Thank You.

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