Keep away from seals, public warned
MEMBERS of the public have been warned to keep away from sick or dead seals on the East Anglian coast in the face of fears that the animals could be facing the first outbreak of a deadly virus for 14 years.
MEMBERS of the public have been warned to keep away from sick or dead seals on the Suffolk coast in the face of fears that the animals could be facing the first outbreak of a deadly virus for 14 years.
Eight seal pups have already been found sick on the region's coastline and the RSPCA and conservationists fear that the virus, called phocine distemper virus (PDV) has spread from Holland and Denmark.
The first case of the virus was recorded of the eastern side of the North Sea in June and since then more than 3,000 seals have died along the coastline of Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
PDV, which is related to distemper in dogs and measles in humans, attacks the seals' immune systems, leaving them susceptible to infections.
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The last outbreak to hit the East Anglian coast was in 1988 when more than 1,500 seals died, most of them in The Wash, the main centre of the east coast population.
Seals are also seen regularly of the Suffolk coast between Orfordness and Hollesley and in the Deben Estuary, all the way up to Woodbridge.
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The Suffolk Wildlife Trust is working alongside other conservation and animal welfare organisations to carefully monitor the coast for sick and dead seals.
It is urging members of the public visiting the coast to exercise "extreme caution".
"It is important that under no circumstances do people approach a sick or stranded seal," said Julian Roughton, the trust's director.
"Dogs should be kept well away and should be on a lead. Some diseases carried by a sick or even a dead seal may be transmissible to dogs and humans," he added.
Alison Rye, RSPCA spokeswoman, said that the results of blood tests on the sick seal pups were still awaited and, consequently, the suspected outbreak of PDV could not yet be confirmed.
Anyone spotting a sick or dead seal should contact the RSPCA, tel 0870 5555 999 and give the location, time of sighting and the symptoms observed.