Influenza A Virus in Whales

It wasn’t much of a surprise to learn that whales, much like seals, could become infected with Influenza A.

Influenza A(H13N2) and Influenza A(H13N9) were isolated from pilot whales from the America Atlantic coasts. Analyses indicated[1] that the whale isolates are closely related to the H13 influenza viruses from gulls.
Other research[2] indicated that there is a strong correlation between local birds and local sea mammals. The Influenza A viruses that circulate between Atlantic gulls and whales, Atlantic mallards and seals and Pacific terns and whales are fairly similar. This means that influenza viruses have been introduced into marine mammals from avian sources for each part of the globe. The results provide further support of interspecies transmission of influenza A viruses from the avian host reservoir directly to mammalian hosts.

But Influenza A viruses in marine mammals are an accident waiting to happen. It only takes one tiny mutation and a novel subtype will be endangering these mammals. Remember that we’re mammals too.

[1] Hinshaw et al: Characterization of two influenza A viruses from a pilot whale in Journal of Virology - 1986
[2] Mandler et al: Derivation of the nucleoproteins (NP) of influenza A viruses isolated from marine mammals in Virology - 1990

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