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International Society for Infectious Diseases <http://www.isid.org>

Date: Fri 29 Jun 2012
Source: This is Cornwall [edited]

A rare dolphin found dead on a Fowey beach could have had a brain infection, an initial postmortem examination has revealed.

The Cornish Guardian reported last week [17-23 Jun 2012] that 2 rare striped dolphins, more common to southerly regions such as the Mediterranean, were found stranded on Thu Jun 7 2012. The 1st, a female, was found at Coombe Haven beach, then a male was found at Polridmouth beach.

The deaths sparked concern from British Divers Marine Life Rescue
(BDMLR) and Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network (MSN) who feared a disease outbreak. The 2 groups work together to study and protect cetaceans (marine mammals). Tooth marks indicated the stranded pair were also attacked by bottlenose dolphins.

An initial postmortem examination has confirmed that one was a juvenile female in poor body condition, which had not eaten recently.
Confirmation of the brain infection is pending the outcome of further tests.

"We have had a number of cases of striped dolphins with this brain infection, so it's likely to be the case here," said Rob Deaville, on behalf of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (of DEFRA), in Truro, which carried out the examination.

"That's what we suspected," said BDMLR vet Darryl Thorpe. "Sometimes, if a disease affects the behaviour of the animal in the sea, that may cause it to strand, because it knows it can't support itself in the water. On rare occasions, the abnormal behaviour can attract unwanted attention from other creatures, like bottlenose dolphins." He said these infections are not contagious and that dolphins have a large amount of parasites in many areas, including the brain. "They can usually survive with them quite happily, but if they get another injury, it can tip the balance." Mr Thorpe added that the BDMLR suspects pollution of the sea with organic compounds is also affecting dolphins' immune systems.

The BDMLR was alerted to the 1st incident when it received a call from Fowey residents who found the animal stranded alive and attempted to put it back in the sea. Sadly, it stranded again and died before rescuers could reach the spot.

The MSN received a call from other residents about the 2nd stranding, about a kilometre away.

Apart from a broken beak and possible net marks, there was no indication of why it died, and a postmortem examination was not possible due to its condition.

Experts said that for 2 dolphins of this species to wash up in the same area at the same time and yet not be in the same condition is highly unusual.

There have been 37 striped dolphin strandings reported in Cornwall to date.

communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[It is inferred that the virus they are referring to is dolphin morbillivirus (DMV), which has been reported as the culprit of dolphin mortalities in the past. Indeed, several dolphin die-offs have been attributed to this pathogen, including endangered Mediterranean striped dolphins (_Stenella coeruleoalba_) in 1990 and 1991.

The striped dolphin is an extensively studied cetacean that is found in temperate and tropical waters of all the world's oceans. The eastern tropical Pacific and Mediterranean populations of the striped dolphin are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), since they have an unfavourable conservation status.

A picture of a striped dolphin can be seen at <http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7245/7050444213_c12af37ce4_z.jpg>. The interactive HealthMap/ProMED map of the affected area is available at <http://healthmap.org/r/2HiF>. - Mod.PMB]

[see also:
Dolphin die-off - Peru (02): morbillivirus NOT 20120530.1150813 Undiagnosed die-off, dolphin - Russia, Ukraine: Black Sea
Dolphin die-off - Peru: morbillivirus susp. 20120422.1110060 Die-off, seal, dolphin - USA: New England, update 20120209.1037523
Undiagnosed dolphin die-off - USA: (MS, AL) 20111202.3510 2010
Dolphin die-off - USA: (southern coast) 20100609.1929
Cetacean morbillivirus, dolphins - Black Sea: susp, RFI 20090831.3066 Dolphin mortality - India 20090401.1250
Dolphin die-off - USA: (TX) 20080305.0913] .................................................sb/pmb/msp/sh/ll
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