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A deadly virus is affecting the way you can be spreading very quickly due to the loss of Arctic sea ice, the warming of the earth’s temperature.
Phocine distemper virus (PDV), which has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of European harbor seals in 2002, it was found in northern sea otters in Alaska, and two years later, leading scientists to question how the virus reached them.
According to a 15-year-old study, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports and led by researchers at the University of California-Davis, the “radical reform” of the sea-ice could open up a new route for the contact of the seals in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions that were previously not possible.
“The loss of sea ice leads to marine wildlife, and to locate and feed in the new habitat, and the removal of the physical barrier, creating new opportunities for them,” said corresponding author Tracey Goldstein, an associate director of the One Health Institute at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in a statement.
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A Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) resting on an icefloe in the Lilliehook Glacier, at Lilliehookfjorden, Svalbard, Norway.
“If the animals are moving around and coming into contact with other species, and they bear the opportunity to enter and send a new infectious disease with potentially devastating consequences,” she added.
The scientists monitored marine mammals in the case of exposure to the virus between 2001 and 2016-with sampled species of mammals, including ice-associated seals, northern fur seals, Steller sea lions and northern sea otters. They will be assessed, Arctic-sea-ice and open-water routes in the Northern part of the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.
The researchers found a widespread infection, and the level of exposure to the virus to begin in 2003, with a peak in 2009. Those peaks coincided with a decrease in Arctic sea-ice extent.
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“As the sea ice continues melting trend, and the potential for viruses and other pathogens to cross between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific ocean, marine mammals may become more common, first-time author, Elizabeth VanWormer, a post-doctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study and for at this moment in time, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in a statement.
“This study underscores the need to understand the DEEMED transfer, as well as potential for outbreaks in susceptible species, within this rapidly changing environment.”
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