Dolphin virus adds to deaths in troubled
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[September 03, 2014]
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A measles-like
virus that is blamed for killing hundreds of dolphins on the U.S. East
Coast has spread into a Florida lagoon where hundreds of manatees, brown
pelicans and dolphins already died mysteriously in recent years.
The Indian River Lagoon, south of the Kennedy Space Center, was the
scene of the unexplained deaths in 2012 and 2013 and is now
threatened by cetacean morbillivirus, which is related to the virus
that causes measles in humans.
Megan Stolen, a research scientist from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research
Institute, said on Tuesday that the disease was new to Florida's
Intercoastal Waterway, which includes the Indian River Lagoon, but
that the deaths appear to be over.
She said 14 dead dolphins, including nine calves, had been found in
August north of Kennedy Space Center and that another four dolphins
were found dead on a nearby beach.
"This is a sheltered population and we're concerned that this new
virus is infecting animals that have not been exposed to it in the
past," Stolen said.
Stolen said some of the deaths were confirmed as a result of
morbillivirus. Other cases, in which the bodies were too decayed to
test, are suspected, she said.
Dolphin deaths that appear to have been caused by the morbillivirus
have been reported as far north as Jacksonville, she said.
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Morbillivirus attacks dolphins' immune systems, leaving infected
animals thin and vulnerable to other diseases, including pneumonia.
Stolen said that kill-off might have weakened the animal population
and that August is prime time for the birth of calves, which have
not built up an immunity.
(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill
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