Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were chemically immobilized and sampled at Svalbard, Norway, and on the pack ice in the Barents Sea from late March to mid-May between 1990 and 1998. Plasma samples were tested for the presence of antibodies to canine distemper virus (CDV), calicivirus, phocid herpesvirus type 1 (PhHV-1), and rabies virus. A seroprevalence of 8% to CDV and 2% to calicivirus were found, whereas no antibodies were detected against PhHV-1 or rabies virus. This serologic survey indicates that polar bears in this region are exposed to morbillivirus and calicivirus, although the nature of these viruses and infections are unknown. Morbillivirus and calicivirus are potential pathogens in seals, but it is unknown whether they may cause health problems in polar bears.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2