Is Seal Flu the next Swine Flu???

It seems like every time I turn around there is a new threat of a pandemic flu that is sure to kill us al off.  Isn’t that fun?  It’s always something new, something inevitably scary, and something that makes waves in the news, thus people run to their HCP to find out their risk and get vaccinated. So, I figured despite it being way prior to flu season, I wanted to get the scoop out there, so you are informed when it is time to get vaccinated.

What is the Seal Flu?

Last September through December, New England harbor seals were found either dead or dying all over harbors, and it was unknown why.  It was found that the seals were infected by a highly virulent form of the flu that was transmitted by sea birds (such as seagulls), which quickly spread from seal to seal (so was able to mutate to spread between mammals), and infected their airways and destroyed lung tissues, leading to death.  The flu strain, over the course of being studied, appeared to have become more virulent (stronger and easier to spread), which is not good news at all.  This strain of flu is the H3N8, and is not a new strain, as it infected canines (dogs) and equines (horses) in the past, but was unable to mutate to be able to infect humans.  The difference with this strain is that it seems to mutate much faster and become more virulent, than those in the past.  And, the deadly flu that sea birds carry is H5N1, and scientists are worried that this flu strain will combine and mutate with the H3N8 and then become a super strain of flu that can infect all mammals, including humans.

What is my risk?

Well, the good news?  This is all just worry/concern by a few scientists, that are currently studying this strain, but nothing has been shown and many scientists believe that this theory is pretty far fetched as the other H3N8 strains have not become infective to humans in the past.  Thus far, many experts think that there is very low risk of transmission to humans, as many humans have been handling and working with this virus for months and no one has had any side effects or been infected by a mutation of the virus.  It may be a little bit of conspiracy theory at this point, as it seems like everyone is waiting for the next big pandemic that we need to worry about.

Is there a vaccine?

Since it hasn’t been shown to be a virus to actually mutate to humans, it is only a theory, there is no vaccine.  This form of flu has only mutated to affect sea lions and seals, in the New England area.

So, I would rest easy that seal flu isn’t going to kill you any time soon, and the media is merely reporting on a theory that many scientists feel falls flat. Scientists do warn that if you are swimming in New England, and see a dead seal in the water, they request that you stay away, and report it immediately to local resources. If there is any proof of this seal flu mutating, I will be sure to update everyone, but as of now, you can ease your worries and just plan on getting your regular flu shot this fall, with no worries about the seal flu!

Yours in Good Health



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