Dead Birds Dead Dolphins Wash Up on Peru’s Coast


B. Mcpherson

The cause of the dolphin deaths has been attributed to a measles like virus. No answers yet about the pelican deaths
Thousands of deaths have occurred in the waters off Peru. Dolphins have been washing ashore in large numbers and thousands of sea birds, mostly pelicans have littered the shore. The jury is still out on the cause of death of the birds, but the culprit in the deaths of the dolphins has been named. Samples were sent out of country to confirm the suspicions that a virus caused the mammals deaths.


“Specialists from the Marine Mammal Center (MMC), in the United States, have confirmed the death of thousands of dolphins in northern Peru was caused by the ‘morbillivirus’.”Peru this Week 

The numerous carcasses of the marine mammals have not been removed from the public and incinerated or otherwise safely disposed of, leading to criticism from an environmental NGO that the highly contagious virus might be able to “species jump” to humans.

The thousands of dead pelicans may have been hit with the same virus or have starved to death. There are two competing theories at this time. Pelicans normally feed on anchovies which have moved offshore to cooler waters. Normally there is a cold upwelling of deep ocean water off the coast of Peru which brings nutrients close to the surface for the fish schools. The water close to shore is abnormally warm.

The contention that the dolphin virus could pose a danger to humans is not idle speculation. Morbilliviruses are a family of viruses that cause widespread and sometimes fatal diseases.
·         Human measles
·         Canine distemper
·         Rinderpest(cattle plague)
·         Felines(domestic cats, recently discovered)
·         Phocine distemper(seals, sea otters)
For more information on this virus, a good information page is posted by CDC Emerging Infectious Diseases.  

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