In Hawaii a new strain of morbillivirus has just been discovered by scientists, raising fears of an epidemic. This disease causes a high mortality rate in cetaceans and could be rapidly transmitted to other marine mammals around the world.
A new strain of morbillivirus, a pathogen that can cause fatal infections to marine mammals, worries researchers. It was discovered by biologists from Hawaii on a Fraser dolphin. This is a very social animal, which could easily spread the disease to its congeners or other species around the world, reports Slate according to information from Gizmodo.
The dolphin had run aground in 2018, off the coast of Maui. His body was studied by scientists for two years. If it was healthy, it was the organs of the cetacean that showed signs of disease, says the news site.
Causing deadly epidemics
In a statement, Kristi West, a researcher at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology, said genetic analysis of dolphin cells was conducted and discovered a “very divergent new strain of morbillivirus.” A study was also published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, recalls Slate.
Only a few strains of morbillivirus are known today. But they can lead to deadly epidemics, prompting scientists to monitor the disease and the animals involved. “This is all the more important for us in Hawaii because we have many other species of dolphins and whales here, which could also be vulnerable to an outbreak of this virus,” says Kristi West.
A high mortality rate
History has already shown that this virus can wreak havoc. In 2017, more than 200 dolphins from Guyana died of this disease between the months of November and December in Brazil.
However, the authors of the study indicated that more research was needed to test the immunity of Dolphins and Pacific Whales, as well as to establish the rates of previous infections of epidemics and the extent of future ones. A vaccination campaign could even be set up, the source explains.
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