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"Seal flu" found in New England harbor seals

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Published on Sep 2, 2012

Researchers at Columbia University discovered the avian H3N8 influenza A virus in the bodies of the 162 New England harbor seals that died between September and December of 2011. Initially believed to be a pneumonia outbreak, researchers found a mutation of the avian virus that indicated it had adapted to infect seals and potentially other mammals. Some 70 percent of emerging diseases move from animals to humans, according to Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University.

H3N8 is a subtype of the influenza A virus. It's endemic in birds (avian influenza), horses (equine influenza) and dogs (canine influenza). This animation illustrates a brief history of the various kinds of influenza caused by H3N8.

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