A disease that has killed more than 800 bottlenose dolphins in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States has been found in Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources says four dolphins found dead at Wassaw and Jekyll Islands in November tested positive for dolphin morbillivirus, a measles-like virus that affect the lungs, brain, and immune system of marine mammals.
Georgia DNR officials say they’ve found 23 dead dolphins in the state since Nov. 15. Clay George of the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section says Georgia usually sees about 21 dolphins stranded on its shores per year.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to stop the disease from spreading,” George told the Savannah Morning News. “We can only hope that this is part of the natural cycle and that populations will rebound to healthy levels soon.”
Researchers are currently taking samples from each stranded dolphin. The disease may be limited to migrant dolphins on the Georgia coast.
“So far, we’re seen no evidence that the disease is killing resident dolphins,” said George. “We suspect most of the dead dolphins are coastal migrants.”
The virus is not infectious to humans.