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A deadly virus is spreading in marine mammals. Scientists say climate change is to blame.

A deadly virus is spreading in marine mammals. Scientists say climate change is to blame.

The study adds to growing research that global warming is having some unexpected impacts on animal and human health.
Image: Sea lions
Researchers noticed a link between sea ice losses in the Arctic and spikes in outbreaks of a virulent disease that affects sea mammals. NOAA Fisheries, Polar Ecosystems Program

“We’re seeing more and more of these toxic blooms affecting our animals,” Johnson said. “This is not unique. It’s just another important piece of evidence showing that climate change is impacting the marine mammals all up and down the West Coast.”

The study’s findings have implications not only for marine mammal populations but also the delicate balances that exist within ecosystems.

“When we see these changes happening in animals, we can’t ignore them, because the impacts on people and the planet are not far behind,” VanWormer said. ”This shows how interconnected these things are — the health of people, animals and the planet.”

The research should also act as a warning sign for the potential impacts that climate change can have on the ability to fight diseases and prevent their spread, according to Johnson.

“The climate is changing so rapidly,” he said. “Understanding how diseases and the ecology of diseases are changing in wildlife and marine mammals will give us insight into the future, and how we need to be prepared for a new paradigm of disease transmissions in animals and in humans.”

Source: nbcnews.com

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