Sick sea lions bring beach warning
An increasing number of sick and dead California sea lions have been reported along the Oregon Coast in recent weeks, Oregon State University scientists said Friday.
The cause is believed to be leptospiroris, a bacterial disease that can be transmitted to humans, according to Jim Rice, an OSU scientist who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Dogs also can be infected with leptospirosis, Rice said.
People should always avoid sea lions on the beach, he said, and, during outbreaks of leptospirosis, should keep their dogs on a leash.
The disease can be transmitted by direct contact with a stricken animal or through contact with damp sand, soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals.
"Typically, sea lions with leptospirosis are quite emaciated and lethargic," Rice said. "Those that don't die on the beach may get washed out to sea and die, or they may move elsewhere. It's possible that some recover, but these are very sick animals."
There have been 50 to 100 cases of leptospirosis per year in the United States reported to the Centers for Disease Control, said Kathy O'Reilly, of OSU's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Thirty percent of the human cases are traced to contact with infected dogs.