Seal flu could endanger human health
London, July 31 (ANI): A new type of influenza virus found in seals could pose a threat to humans, scientists have warned.
The H3N8 strain identified in American harbour seals has the potential to pass to other mammals, including humans, said experts.
It was discovered after the death of 162 New England harbour seals last year. Post-mortem examinations of five of the animals showed that they were killed by a flu infection.
Specifically, the virus has the ability to target a protein found in human lungs.
"There is a concern that we have a new mammalian-transmissible virus to which humans haven't been exposed yet. It's a combination we haven't seen in disease before," the Daily Express quoted Dr Anne Moscona, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, as saying.
One cause for worry was the fact that few scientists had thought of the possibility of a bird flu virus infecting seals, said the researchers.
It highlighted the fact that pandemic influenza can appear in unforeseen ways.
"Flu could emerge from anywhere and our readiness has to be much better than we previously realised," said Dr Moscona.
"We need to be very nimble in our ability to identify and understand the potential risks posed by new viruses emerging from unexpected sources.
"It's important to realise that viruses can emerge through routes that we haven't considered. We need to be alert to those risks and ready to act on them."
The warning is published in the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology, mBio. (ANI)
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