Our take: After 162 harbor seals were found dead last winter along the New England coast, scientists have found that they had a new mutation of the influenza A virus, which started as the bird flu and turned into something completely new.
Over the past few years, bird flu and swine flu outbreaks have harmed wide swaths of global populations — now scientists are warning that a new flu that developed in seals off the New England coast could pose a human threat.
Last winter, officials found 162 dead harbor seals in what was then thought to be a pneumonia outbreak. But a new investigation by Columbia University researchers has found that the dead seals had a new mutation of the influenza A virus. The virus started as avian, or bird flu, but the mutations may have created something new altogether.
"Once it moves into seals, it becomes seal flu," says Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University.
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