The first occurrence of phocine distemper (PD) disease in harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) from the United States is reported. Two seals stranded on Long Island, New York (USA) in February 1992 with clinical signs of respiratory distress, fever, and depression. Pneumonia and diffuse pulmonary congestion were the most significant post mortem findings. On histologic examination one seal had a diffuse broncho-interstitial pneumonia with formation of syncytia. The principal lesion in the second animal was nonsuppurative meningoencephalitis. Using immunoperoxidase staining, PD viral antigen was found in the cytoplasm of bronchiolar epithelium and cerebral cortex neurons. With a differential virus neutralization test, there were higher titers against phocine distemper virus (PDV) than against canine distemper virus. Thus, PDV is the most likely agent responsible for the observed lesions.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3