Originally published November 20 2013
Mass dolphin deaths caused by ocean epidemic of uncontrollable virus
by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
(NaturalNews) A virus responsible for killing some 800 bottlenose dolphins off the mid-Atlantic coast back in August is believed to now be affecting whales, according to new reports. Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) believe that at least four humpback whales and one pygmy sperm whale that have also turned up dead in the same area since July may have been stricken with cetacean morbillivirus, a viral disease that closely mimics measles in humans.
The Washington Post (WP) reports that tests are still underway to determine the cause of the whales' deaths, but all the signs seem to point to the disease, which attacks the immune systems of sea mammals and leaves them vulnerable to pneumonia and other infections. At least 14 other humpback whales besides those found dead have washed ashore and become stranded, which is twice the six-year average of seven.
"There are too many unknowns right now," says Teri Rowles, director of NOAA's marine mammal health and stranding response program, as quoted by WP. "We would be concerned if indeed there is an outbreak of this virus in humpback whales causing clinical disease and mortality."
Under normal conditions, whales and other sea mammals that are carriers of morbillivirus never actually come down with the disease, as their immune systems naturally protect them from infection. But this year, rates of infection are much higher than normal, which points to other potential factors of immune susceptibility such as environmental pollution or radiation from Fukushima.
"These animals are normally immune from opportunistic viruses," writes one WP commenter about the situation. "[H]owever, when they [are] injured and stressed, their immune system weakens and falls victim to all sorts of pathogens. The likely culprit is either a toxic chemical or 3D oil surveys in the Gulf of Mexico."
Environmental pollution causing marine mammals to lose their ability to navigate, find food This same commenter suggests that the affected animals may be suffering from a condition known as sinus barotrauma, which is characterized by damage to their cranial air sacs caused by pressure differences. Since dolphins use these air sacs as acoustic mirrors, affected animals essentially lose their ability to navigate, leaving them unable to feed properly. In the end, their immune systems weaken to the point that they develop an infection and eventually wash ashore dead or severely ill.
"This doesn't surprise me," writes another commenter on the U.K.'s Daily Mail. "Sewerage has been dumping into our oceans every day by the tons. Go back to the old ways, dumping it into the deep earth where it belongs. Imagine a pipeline dumping all those toxins in our air. We'd be sick too."
Other potential factors in the demise of whale and dolphins include things like secret government tests and deep sea oil drilling, both of which can cause long-term damage to delicate marine ecosystems. When one factor is thrown out of balance, or when the toxic onslaught exceeds the capacity of nature to mitigate it, entire ecologies can become susceptible to failure, in this case starting with the most human-like creatures living in our oceans.
"It's BP poisoning, and it's moving from south to north with the Gulf Stream loaded with Corexit -- the mask for heavy-metal-laden oil from Deepwater Horizon," opines yet another WP commenter.
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