Major outbreak of bacterial disease affects hundreds of California sea lions

The Marine Mammal Center is facing the second largest outbreak of leptospirosis in California sea lions in its recorded history, according to the center.

This year, 220 sea lions at the Marin Headlands-based center have tested positive for the bacterial infection, which affects their kidneys. Outbreaks of the potentially fatal infection typically occur every four to five years, according to Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the center.

The last outbreak in 2011 led to the admittance of nearly 200 sea lion patients to the center’s hospital. The center has been collecting records, blood and urine samples for more than four decades.

“Our long history of rehabilitation and commitment to scientific research allows us to see the disease patterns over multiple decades and better respond to these types of events,” Johnson said in a statement.

Though sea lions diagnosed with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics and other supportive care, roughly two-thirds of the animals with the infection do not survive, center officials said.

Other animal species, including humans and dogs, can become infected with the bacteria through contact with contaminated urine, water and soil.

Officials at the center urge the public to maintain a safe distance of at least 50 feet from marine mammals and to keep their dogs away.

They can also call the center’s 24-hour hotline at (415) 289-7325 to report any sick marine mammals. To donate to help the center treat current sea lion patients, people can visit MarineMammalCenter.org/donate.California

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Ali Jamalian, whose life was disrupted in the wake of being charged with possession decades ago, now heads up Sunset Connect, a cannabis manufacturing company. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Green Rush: Cannabis equity program elevates unexpected entrepreneurs

‘It’s a form of reparations for those of us who were ruined by cannabis arrest’

The Giants and Dodgers face each other again following a May series the Dodgers swept; Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux caught stealing by Giants second baseman Donovan Solano at Oracle Park on May 23 is pictured. 
Chris Victorio/
Special to The Examiner
Giants vs. Dodgers: What you need to know before this week’s huge series

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner That grinding noise you’ll hear… Continue reading

San Francisco supervisors approved zoning changes that will allow a chain grocery store to occupy the bottom floor of the 555 Fulton St. condo building. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Trader Joe’s approved for Hayes Valley, bringing long-awaited grocery store

New Seasons Market canceled plans at 555 Fulton St. citing construction delays

Shek-Woon Ng, 107, who retired at 99 from his acupuncture practice in San Francisco’s Chinatown, got a COVID-19 vaccination in June. <ins>(Courtesy Sky Link TV)</ins>
Lesson from a 107-year-old man who is now fully vaccinated

One in four seniors in S.F.’s Chinatown have not been inoculated

Most Read