NOAA Issues Warning about Leptospirosis and Sea Lions in Oregon and Along the West Coast

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A cyclic bacterial disease outbreak on the West Coast has affected about 50 California sea lions in Washington, Oregon and California since late summer. NOAA Fisheries advises beachgoers to exercise caution around any stranded California sea lion, since the bacteria involved can also infect humans and pets.

The bacteria is Leptospira interrogans Pomona, one of the few bacteria known to contribute to morbidity and mortality in pinniped populations. Starting in late September the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network started getting reports of stranded California sea lions that exhibited signs of leptospirosis in Oregon. Since that time, eight cases of leptospirosis have been confirmed and results are pending in an additional 13 cases in Oregon. Several cases are suspected in Washington but have not been confirmed. Since late summer, The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, has diagnosed about 30 sea lions with leptospirosis after they became stranded on the central California coast. Most of the California cases occurred in October.

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