Seal Virus
This is the archive of the virus reports from 2002.......
Scientists in 2002 confirmed that a deadly seal virus could be on its way to the Wash, as the number of dead seals in the Danish and Swedish Kattegat/Skagerrak area hit nearly 2000. The strain of Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) is very similar to that of 1988 and experts assume it will mainly kill common seals.

Reports have been made that some seals at Blakeney Point are showing signs of illness and two common seals were taken into quarantine at the Hunstanton SEA LIFE sanctuary earlier that week.

Kieran Copeland, animal care manager at the Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary and BDMLR area manager, said ″One of the pups was picked up on 21st June 2002 at Old Hunstanton and the other on 13th June 2002 at Snettisham.″

″They do not appear to have PDV at the moment but we will have to keep them in for about three or four weeks and keep our fingers crossed because of the incubation period of the PDV virus.″

″If PDV hits we will know about it because dead seals will start washing up on the beach,″ said Kieran.

Ann Smith, a secretary at Norfolk´s RSPCA wildlife hospital at East Winch said staff were making a conscious effort to look to see if seals are sick, but had seen nothing yet.

Kieran said he would be working very closely with the RSPCA in the event of any outbreak in the Wash – an area still not fully recovered from the 1988 outbreak.

″Everything is going mad to bring things together at the moment as there is no way that we can tell how big it is going to be. We might lose 50 seals in the Wash or it could be as many as 3000 again,″ he said.

UPDATE 25th July 2002

During the weekend eight sick pups were found off East Anglia - two had to be humanely killed and the others are being looked after in a wildlife hospital,″ said the RSPCA spokeswoman. ″We don´t know anything for certain yet. We´re carrying out tissue tests on the dead animals and blood tests on the live ones to try and find out if the virus is present″.

UPDATE 31st July 2002

The virus which has now killed thousands of seals in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands has now reached Germany. Tests conducted on five seals found dead on Germany´s northwest coast and two sick animals confirmed that the virus was present. The local authorities have taken measures, including reinforcing coastal surveillance and collecting any dead animals as quickly as possible.

UPDATE 13th August 2002

A virus that has killed thousands of seals across northern Europe has reached Britain. Examinations of five dead seals that were washed up on the coast of eastern England two weeks ago have tested positive with the phocine distemper virus.
The British government said it was establishing a £250,000 project to find out more about the disease.


2nd October 2002 - The first case of Phocine Distemper Virus, a deadly disease that kills seals, has been confirmed in Scotland. A post mortem examination was carried out by vets from the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness on a common seal found washed ashore at Dornoch in the Moray Firth on 11th September 2002. Subsequent laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of PDV in the seal.

Please help us to learn more about this terrible disease by reporting any sick or dead seals as quickly as possible to the UK hotline: 08712 447999.


Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary /