In a major finding, scientists have discovered the major cause behind the massive dolphin die-off on the Mid-Atlantic coast.
According to the researchers, measles-like virus called morbillivirus may have caused the deaths of around 300 bottlenose dolphin along the Mid-Atlantic coast in the United States.
According to US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 300 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead since mid-July on coasts between New York and North Carolina.
The researchers collected samples and analysed to see if there was any relationship between all the strandings.
“After completing initial diagnostic tests on more than two dozen animals from all affected states and consulting with disease experts, we have determined that the likely primary cause of this event is a virus — the cetacean morbillivirus, which is similar to measles in humans or canine distemper in dogs,” the NOAA said in a statement.
It said 11 of the 32 dolphins tested confirmed positive for morbillivirus, with all of the remaining dolphins suspected of having the fatal infection.
On August 8, NOAA Fisheries had officially declared the situation an “unusual mortality event”. The agency said morbillivirus usually spreads through the air or direct contact between animals, and affects the lungs, brain and immune system of dolphins and causes illness and death.
While this virus can easily spread among dolphin populations since the animals are highly social, it is not infectious to humans, the NOAA said.
This is the second big strike for the virus, which was the chief agent behind a wave of infections that struck bottlenose dolphins between June 1987 and March 1988, killing more than 700 animals before retreating into the blue.