Marine Science in the News: Bacteria in California Sea Lions


A contagious bacteria is affecting California Sea Lions in Monterey County. As of the end of October the Marine Mammal Center confirmed that 24 sea lions tested positive for leptospirosis, a contagious bacterial infection that can result in kidney damage and renal failure.

While the cause of the outbreak is unknown, there have been cyclical outbreaks of 4-5 years since the 1970s. The Marine Mammal Center and UCLA scientists are working to study the pathogen and what is causing it.

If you see a sick sea lion on the beach do not approach it. Dogs and humans are at risk because the bacteria is spread through urine.

What to look for: Infected mammals include drinking water and folding their flippers over their abdomen. Sea lions do not typically drink water.

What to do if you see an infected sea lion: Report it to the Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-7325.

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