Saturday, December 13, 2014

Update on the Virus Killing Dolphins along the East Coast

 We've talked in class about how major antigenic variation events can lead to major outbreaks. We focused on the example of the Influenza virus, but it is not only human viruses that can cause deadly  resurgence of a disease

According to recent reports, a virus has killed over 1,560 dolphins from New York to central Florida since July 2013. After testing the carcass of a dolphin that died in Bahia Honda State Park in November, scientists confirmed that the culprit is morbillivirus (morbid, isn't it?), a "measles-like virus" that is known to be very contagious among sea mammals. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has confirmed that cases of the virus have appeared in the Florida Keys, and that the Florida Gulf coast is now a surveillance area for the virus.

But this is not the first time there has been a major outbreak of morbillivirus. There was a previous epizootic outbreak in 1990, when the morbillivirus killed 290 dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, and it is likely that the same strain killed 742 dolphins on the East Coast in 1987 and 1988.

We learned in class that scientists and statisticians are now able to predict with some rough consistency when major outbreaks of Influenza will occur. When is the next dolphidemic likely to strike?

By Kasiemobi Udo-okoye



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