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Sea lion parvo risk slim, says expert

POWELL RIVER, B.C. – Parvo virus jumping from sea lions to dogs in Powell River has a slim chance, according to the Vancouver Aquarium’s head veterinarian.

“There is recently a parvo virus that’s been identified from sea lions that seems very different from the canine parvo virus,” said Dr. Martin Haulena. “I’d actually be more concerned about dogs passing parvo virus back to sea lions.”

Recently, hundreds of sea lions have been hanging out at Second Beach in Powell River, attracting widespread attention.

Haulena noted that there are plenty of viruses that can be passed along from one species to another.

He said sea lions can carry the potentially fatal bacterial disease leptospirosis, which can be passed to dogs, as well as salmonella and E.coli in their feces, and that can be passed back and forth, as well.

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“There are good reasons to keep dogs and other animals and people away from sea lions and practise good hygiene if you step in sea lion remains,” Haulena said.

“Make sure you are well washed up.”

Parvo virus – a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite – is  likely not a concern for jumping from the sea lions to the dogs, Hauena reiterated.

While male California sea lions migrate in packs to B.C. every year, their female counterparts stay with their pups on the Channel Islands in California, and in Mexico.

Haulena said it’s “very, very normal for there to be large accumulations of California sea lion males (in B.C.) right now,” Haulena said.

“And of course we have our resident steller sea lions that are here, year round.”

Sea lions usually follow herring runs, he added.

The male sea lions will then typically head south, back to the Channel Islands in the spring and summer months, according to Haulena.

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