California sea lions contract potentially deadly infection via urine, rescue center says

An outbreak of a potentially deadly bacterial infection is affecting hundreds of sea lions in California, a rescue center said.

The infection, leptospirosis, has been diagnosed in more than 220 sea lions rescued this year, the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito said -- making it the second-largest outbreak recorded by the center.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which can affect humans and animals alike, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If untreated, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage and liver failure and, in some cases, death.

The Marine Mammal Center said this outbreak is the second-largest recorded by the center.

The Marine Mammal Center said this outbreak is the second-largest recorded by the center. (Bill Hunnewell/Marine Mammal Center via AP)

Leptospirosis is most commonly transmitted when an infected animal urinates, which can contaminate water or soil. The bacteria can live in contaminated soil or water for months, the CDC said.

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Wild and domestic animals can transmit the infection, including cattle, horses and dogs, among others. The strain currently affecting the sea lions has also been seen in pigs, skunks, and foxes, according to the rescue center, though it’s not entirely clear how the sea lions contracted it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.