WASHINGTON – An outbreak of a measles-like virus is killing off a record number of dolphins on the east coast.
It’s the deadliest outbreak of morbillivirus ever recorded. At least 753 bottlenose dolphins have washed up on beaches from New York to Florida since the beginning of July. The last major outbreak in the 1980s continued for about nine months. This time around, with just four months into the current epidemic, NOAA officials say the death toll is already at an all-time high – and could rise.
Since there’s no vaccine that can be administered to a large dolphin population, researchers can’t prevent it from spreading.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach has performed necropsies on hundreds of dead dolphins. Five whales also tested positive for morbillivirus.
The virus is targeting marine mammals, so NOAA officials say it’s unlikely humans will be affected. But they advise to stay away from beached whales or dolphins.