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Sun Nov 10, 2019, 10:21 AM

Phocine Distemper Virus Spread Linked To Melting Arctic Ice; Disease Shifted From Atlantic 2 Pacific

Climate change could be to blame for spikes in a deadly virus among otters, seals and sea lions around the Arctic, a new study has suggested. Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has been common in the northern Atlantic ocean for decades but as a result of melting Arctic sea ice it has now appeared among marine mammals in the northern Pacific ocean too.

The 15-year study which tracked the animals via satellite found PDV, which can kill some species, was most common in years when so much Arctic ice melted it became possible for mammals to move freely from the Atlantic to Pacific regions.

Steadily rising global temperatures due to climate change have meant more and more sea ice is melting around the Arctic, opening up sea lanes which for thousands of years have been impassable. Between 1979 and 2018, Arctic sea ice declined on average 12.8 per cent each decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The scientists said a severe spike in PDV in 2003 and 2004 among marine mammals in the northern Pacific was connected to a record ice melt in August 2002. Testing showed about 30 per cent of Stellar sea lions in the northern Pacific Ocean were infected with the disease, which had previously been mostly confined to Atlantic populations.



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