During the past few months, more than half of the total population of about 300 highly endangered Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) on the western Saharan coast of Africa, died in a mysterious disease outbreak. Epizootiological and postmortem findings were reminiscent of similar outbreaks amongst pinniped and cetacean species in recent years, which were caused by an infection with newly discovered morbilliviruses (for review see osterhaus et al.). Virological, as well as toxicological, analysis performed on tissue samples collected from relatively fresh carcasses during the outbreak indicate that infection with a virus closely related to dolphin morbillivirus (DMV), possibly originating from affected dolphins in the same area, was the primary cause of the outbreak. Therefore it is concluded that vaccination with a safe and effective non-replicating vaccine should be considered as a management tool in the conservation of Mediterranean monk seals.

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doi.org/10.1016/S0264-410X(98)00006-1, hdl.handle.net/1765/3643
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Osterhaus, A., Vedder, L., Vos, J., van Egmond, H., Liem, D., Baumann, R., … van de Bildt, M. (1998). Monk seal mortality: virus or toxin?. Vaccine, 16(9-10), 979–981. doi:10.1016/S0264-410X(98)00006-1