Interspecies transmission may play a key role in the evolution and ecology of influenza A viruses. The importance of marine mammals as hosts or carriers of potential zoonotic pathogens such as highly pathogenic H5 and H7 influenza viruses is not well understood. The fact that influenza viruses are some of the few zoonotic pathogens known to have caused infection in marine mammals, evidence for direct transmission of influenza A virus H7N7 subtype from seals to man, transmission of pandemic H1N1 influenza viruses to seals and also limited evidence for long-term persistence of influenza B viruses in seal populations without significant genetic change, makes monitoring of influenza viruses in marine mammal populations worth being performed. In addition, such monitoring studies could be a great tool to better understand the ecology of influenza viruses in nature.
Keywords: influenza viruses; marine mammals; zoonotic diseases.