Sealpox is a zoonotic disease of seals and sea lions (pinnipeds) and can be a complication of animals undergoing rehabilitation (1-4).
Eight pinniped species are known to be susceptible to infection with sealpox viruses: Halichoerus grypus (gray seals), Phoca vitulina (harbor seals), P.
Animals infected with sealpox virus typically show development of firm skin nodules (1-3cm) on the head, neck, and thorax.
Sealpox viruses are tentatively classified in the genus Parapoxvirus (15), which comprises multiple species of virus that can infect humans.
Sealpox virus is likely transmitted to humans when broken skin comes into contact with virus shed from lesions (skin or oral) on infected pinnipeds.
To better understand the risks for sealpox virus infection in humans, we conducted a study of marine mammal workers at 11 marine mammal centers with rehabilitation capacity for species in North American waters; the objectives of the study were to ascertain the workers' knowledge of and experience with sealpox virus and to identify factors associated with sealpox virus outbreaks among pinnipeds in rehabilitation centers.
Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for potential risk factors (age, location, sex) associated with animals who had sealpox cases, where appropriate.
Informants were asked to recall the approximate numbers of animals in which sealpox was clinically diagnosed during the previous year.
Those with concurrent illness died or were euthanized (including all adults in which sealpox was diagnosed), while most animals with malnutrition recovered (Table 2).
To identify factors that might be associated with transmission of sealpox virus in marine mammal facilities, we obtained information about disinfectant use in pens, the number of animals housed per pen, and other housing characteristics (Table 3).
Overall, no significant association was found between sealpox infection and species, sex, or age in the study population (Table 2), and no significant associations were found at the facility level.