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I live in Virginia Beach and have been watching with interest the recent numbers of dolphins washing up dead along the Mid-Atlantic shoreline.
There have been over 300 found in recent months from NY to NC. From the Virginia Beach coast to the Eastern Shore, 26 were found in one weekend alone.
"Twenty-six dolphins in one weekend is something we can't handle," said Susan Barco, a researcher at the Virginia Aquarium. "If it continues at this rate, we are going to have to ask for outside help."
Doctors from out of state are already aiding with the dolphin autopsies, known as necropsies. Dead dolphins were left at the door of the marine care center, because the freezers are already full. Most of the dolphins affected are males of all ages.
"We're seeing lesions in their respiratory systems. We're seeing joint problems. We're not seeing animals feeding normally," said Barco. "A lot of them are thin."
-Wavy.com (local news)
Genetic testing has given us an answer. It is now being attributed to a measles-like virus known as morbillivirus.
"We are now calling it a morbillivirus outbreak," Teri Rowles of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program said during a telephone press briefing on Tuesday. As of Monday, 333 animals have died on coasts between New York and North Carolina.
Among 33 dolphins tested this summer, 32 dolphins have turned up with a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, Rowles said. Additional genome sequencing tests have confirmed that the cetacean morbillivirus was present in 11 animals. -NBC News
An outbreak in '87-'88 caused the deaths of over 700 of these majestic mammals. Sadly, there is nothing to do but let Mother Nature run her course. They expect the deaths in the bottlenose dolphin community to continue thru Spring 2014.
The strandings are likely to end as they probably began, through natural events. Researchers anticipate that some dolphins still out at sea survived the infection and gained immunity. Survivor numbers will grow, and over time the virus, having completed its deadly rounds, will find no new bottlenose dolphins to infect.
Hopefully nature will run her course quickly and spare more than she claims.