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Virus is killing dolphins

An abnormally high number of dolphin deaths has been attributed to a virus that suppresses their immune systems, according to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Since July 1, more than 334 dolphins have washed up on shore between New York and North Carolina. The majority have been in Virginia.

So far this year there have been 217 dolphin deaths in Virginia, about three times the average (70) for an entire year, reported the Virginia Aquarium.

Morbillivirus, which suppresses dolphins’ immune systems, was confirmed or suspected in 97% of deceased dolphins that were tested.

A similar increase in dolphin deaths in 1987 also was linked to morbillivirus, a disease similar to distemper, but not like the distemper you would find in dogs, said Joan Barns, spokesperson for the Virginia Aquarium.

Dolphin strandings should be reported to the Virginia Aquarium hotline at 757-385-7575. Include a GPS location if possible.

On Saturday, August 24, a dead dolphin was found on a Rappahannock River beach between Whiting and Meachim creeks. Earlier in the month a dead dolphin was found on the Urbanna Creek shoreline in Urbanna.

posted 09.04.2013

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