Measles-like Virus Is Killing Dolphins and Whales in Florida
‘Flipper,’ a TV series that ran from 1964 to 1967, then again was revived for another 88 series, starred a lovable bottle-nosed dolphin. The show also continued to play the older re-runs during many years afterwards, becoming a popular show many people grew up to know and love. Flipper, the seemingly smiling dolphin, touched many hearts as other bottle-nosed dolphins do in aquarium shows due to their high intelligence and tricks.
Sadly, bottle-nosed and other species of dolphins are still threatened by commercial fishing. Now a new threat, a measles-like disease, has started to kill these beautiful animals since July and has shown its ugly face on the Florida coast. A few whale species seem to also be its target. This virus has killed 753 victims and there seems to be no end in sight. It is also now noted as the worst outbreak ever recorded say researchers (Subbaraman, NBC News).
So far only five whales have been found dead. Two pygmy whales and three humpback whales have been tested and are positive for the dolphin morbillivirus, although further testing needs to confirm whether it is the measles-like virus which is considered rare in these whales. Testing is also proving very difficult due to the tissues of these animals lay in such a decayed state.
In New York and Delaware, there has been a higher number of stranded whales, but researchers are still unsure if this is due to this current virus outbreak. Other species of dolphins and harp seals have been tested to be free of the virus. It does seem that the virus is hitting the bottle-nosed dolphin herds the hardest at the moment.
This virus seems to be spreading from shared air and close contact from other pods, thus making it impossible to stop the spread. The past governmental shut down didn’t help in trying to figure out what to do, leaving freezers full of dolphin specimens to be studied at research strand stations.
Although the virus is only particular to certain sea mammals it seems, it does make their immune system weaker. In turn, it makes it easier for bacterial and fungal infections to flourish and these organisms could possibly choose humans as a host to infect. So as a precaution, people are told not to handle the animals in any way, and to call the appropriate authorities when a sick, dying or suspicious animal is found.
By Tina Elliott