25 June 2010

What you can catch if a walrus sneezes on you

... a 35-year old guy started feeling a pain in his eye and went to his doctor. The doctor looked under his eyelid and ... found - and removed - a single mite of the species Orthohalarachne attenuata... that normally is found in the nasal passages of fur seals, sea lions, and walruses. In seals, the mites can be both prevalent (as in almost every single seal has them) and abundant (as in more than 1000 mites per seal and in a few cases in one study, more than 2000!). These incredibly high infestations can cause problems for the seal's breathing, but can also do damage in the lungs and leave the seals susceptible to other infections, too. Transmission between seals occurs by -- sneezing on each other, of course. So, how did this young guy in California get a nasal mite in his eye? Turns out that two days before his first doctor's visit, he had visited Sea World - where he stood too close to some walruses and got sneezed on.
 Photo: Mike Kinsella.  Found at Parasite of the Day, via Not Exactly Rocket ScienceOriginal report at J. Parasitology.


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