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Alaska: Mystery seal disease appears to be spreading

Scientists appear to have determined that radiation from Japan's nuclear disaster has not caused the unexplained illnesses.

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Spotted seals are prepared for butchering in 2006 in Shishmaref, Alaska. (AFP/Getty Images)

A mysterious sickness that has killed Alaskan seals and walrus appears to be spreading, according to The Associated Press.

First spotted last year on Alaska’s northern coast, the illness was reported last week at the top of the Alaska panhandle where a dying seal was captured by fishermen, the news agency.

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The seal, spotted at Yakutat, was bald and lethargic and suffered conditions similar to those found in 60 dead seals and 75 diseased ones, most of them ring seals, that were discovered in July last year on the north coast, the news agency reported.

"The seal, determined to be a yearling, exhibited almost total hair loss and nodular, ulcerated scabbed skin sores," Kathy Burek-Huntington, a veterinary pathologist part of an international group of experts working on the disease, was quoted as saying. "These sores are consistent with the disease process we have been seeing in the ice seals in the North Slope and Bering Strait areas."

According to Reuters, scientists last month ruled out that the illness could have been caused by radiation from the nuclear disaster last year at Japan’s Daiichi Fukushima power plant.

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According to the AP, the dead seals discovered last year showed lesions on hind flippers and in their mouths. Some suffered from hair loss and irritated skin around the nose and eyes. Post-mortem examinations found fluid in lungs, white spots on livers and abnormal growth in brains.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120307/alaska-mystery-seal-disease-appears-be-spreading