Since June, officials in Maine have seen 57 stranded seals, both Gray and Harbor, in five Maine counties, an elevated number (3X the normal rate).
Most of the seals were found dead.
On July 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed that samples from four stranded seals in Maine have tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1. All of these animals had recently died or required euthanasia.
USDA is notifying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state animal and public health officials. The finding will be reported to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Seal mortality events have occurred in southern Maine previously. The most recent Unusual Mortality Event in seals occurred in 2018 due to phocine distemper virus. These events can last for several months to several years. They are challenging when the event involves infectious diseases with the potential for spread across wildlife species and domestic animals or humans.
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