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During an outbreak of a serious apparently infectious disease among harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), which started in the Kattegat area in April 1988 and rapidly spread to the North sea, the Wadden sea and the Baltic sea, greater than 17,000 animals died within a period of eight months. In August 1988 it was realized that the clinical symptoms and pathological lesions were similar to those found in canine distemper: apart from general depression and fever, the animals suffered from severe respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous disease and a variety of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections were frequently encountered, suggesting a severe malfunctioning of the immune system. At different expert meetings, held in several of the countries involved, possible explanations for the deaths were not only attributed to an infectious...
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