A new flu virus identified in American harbour seals has the potential to pass to other mammals, including humans.
As reported by EurekAlert, the H3N8 strain was first discovered after the death of 162 New England harbour seals last year. Post-mortem examinations of five of the animals showed they were killed by a flu infection.
While the strain is closely related to one that has been circulating in North American birds since 2002, it seems to have adapted to living in mammals by evolving mutations known to ease transmission and cause more severe symptoms. This ability could allow it to target a protein found in human lungs.