Morbillivirus likely killing dolphins along East Coast, NOAA officials say

Photo: Associated Press

A virus resembling measles may be behind the large-scale deaths of dolphins up and down the East Coast, Discovery News reports.

More than 300 bottlenose dolphins - including 170 in and around the Chesapeake Bay - have washed up dead along the eastern seaboard through Aug. 20 at a rate several times higher than normal.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tell Discovery News that morbillivirus, a virus that comes from the same family as human measles and canine distemper, is spreading rapidly among dolphins.

A similar epidemic in the late 1980s killed 740 animals in the same region, Discovery News says.

Virginia wildlife officials say that, on average, about 60 dolphins wash up onto the Commonwealth's coastline each year. Officials have struggled to keep up with the mounting deaths and, in some cases, have run out of space to store the dead dolphins.