A serologic survey of the prevalence of morbillivirus antibodies was conducted in a population of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) from northeastern Scotland, where mortality was comparatively low during the 1988 phocine distemper virus outbreak. None of the 12 seals sampled before the epizootic were seropositive. Thirty-five (52%) of 68 seals sampled after the beginning of the epizootic were seropositive, although there were significant age-related differences in both the number of seropositive individuals and in antibody levels. Marking studies showed that most seropositive seals caught during the peak of the epizootic survived for several months. Thus, the low mortality observed in this population did not appear to result from a lack of contact with the virus.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1