Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Big Break In Dolphin Die-Off On The U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coast - It's An "Outbreak" Of Measles-Like Virus?!

August 27, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Genetic tests have confirmed that an outbreak of a measles-like virus known as morbillivirus is playing a major role in the massive dolphin die-off on the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Sarah Rose, left, with the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team begins a necropsy on a dead
dolphin at the Virginia Aquarium Marine Animal Care Center, in Virginia Beach, Va., on Aug. 6, 2013.

This is the second big strike for the virus, which was the chief agent behind a wave of infections that struck bottlenose dolphins between June 1987 and March 1988, killing more than 700 animals before retreating into the blue.

"We are now calling it a morbillivirus outbreak," Teri Rowles of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program said during a telephone press briefing on Tuesday. As of Monday, 333 animals have died on coasts between New York and North Carolina.

Among 33 dolphins tested this summer, 32 dolphins have turned up with a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, Rowles said. Additional genome sequencing tests have confirmed that the cetacean morbillivirus was present in 11 animals.

Morbillivirus belongs to a family of RNA viruses that cause rinderpest in cattle, distemper in canine species, and measles in humans. In dolphins, the virus suppresses the immune system, so researchers are seeing "animals that are very thin, animals that have a lot of other diseases and infections," Rowles said.

WATCH: Scientists say the strain of measles that is killing dolphins cannot be passed to beachgoers or swimmers. The virus last struck a large number of dolphins 25 years ago, but its cause remains a mystery. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

The resurgence of the infection in bottlenoses could merely be natural forces at work. Infections have "always been happening in cycles," Perry Habecker, staff veterinary chief at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC News.

The genetic makeup of bacteria and viruses changes slightly over time, Habecker said, and populations of animals can also lose their immunity. "There’s no doubt in my mind that these kinds of disease have been [recurring] for millennia."

Researchers suspect that morbillivirus is hosted by offshore populations of marine mammals, and was transmitted to coastal bottlenose dolphins in the spring or early summer. This year, the virus seems to have entered a population that "simply [doesn't] have an immune response to effectively fight off the virus," Stephanie Venn-Watson of the National Marine Mammal Foundation said.

Researchers are planning analyses for the very first cases — strandings that may have occurred as early as February or March this year — to check if environmental factors contributed as a trigger.

Aside from the morbillivirus, a second suspect is the Brucella bacterium, which has been found in tissue samples from four dolphins from Virginia, NOAA says. Marine mammals are common hosts for the bacterium.

WATCH: Hundreds of dolphins along the east coast have died this summer. Tests show it's the result of a deadly virus. NBC News' Erika Edwards reports.

In the last few weeks, dead dolphins have begun washing up on the North Carolina coasts, which indicates that the outbreak, like the migrating dolphin herds, is moving south. If this year's die-off progresses like the 1987-88 outbreak did, the strandings are likely to continue until the spring of 2014.

Between now and then, there's not much researchers can do to stop the spread of the virus — logistics stand in the way of research vessels going after wild dolphin herds with vaccines.

The strandings are likely to end as they probably began, through natural events. Researchers anticipate that some dolphins still out at sea survived the infection and gained immunity. Survivor numbers will grow, and over time the virus, having completed its deadly rounds, will find no new bottlenose dolphins to infect. - NBC News.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Floods, Landslides Triggered By Tropical Depression Fernand Kill 14 Across Mexico - Federal Emergency In 92 Municipalities!

August 27, 2013 - MEXICO - Landslides caused by torrential rain from tropical depression Fernand killed 13 people in eastern Mexico after cascading mud struck and buried homes on in Veracruz state on Monday.

A landslide in Amatan town, Chiapas state, Mexico, on Sept. 29, 2010.

A man was also killed when he drowned after being swept away by floodwaters in neighboring Oaxaca.

Fernand had weakened from a tropical storm to a depression after landfall sometime late Sunday, but heavy rains flooded areas, with Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte calling a federal emergency in 92 municipalities.

Though Fernand broke up after hitting land, forecasters warn more mudslides are still a threat in Mexico.

Some 300 people had been evacuated to shelters, according to Veracruz Civil Protection Director Noemi Guzman Lagunes.

And while Fernand has largely dissipated and passed over the state, Duarte said on Monday that the "emergency continues," as "our experience shows us that this type of weather phenomenon makes an impact with the amount of rain that it brings."

The port of Veracruz, Mexico as Tropical Storm Fernand made landfall early Monday morning.
Angeles Juarez, Veracruz News via EPA

Fernand came during the Atlantic's hurricane season, which lasts between June 1 and November 1. - Global Post.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: For The Second Time In A Month, Dead Fish Wash Ashore In Karachi, Pakistan?!

August 27, 2013 - PAKISTAN - Something’s terribly wrong at the seashore. For the second time within a month, a large number of dead fish have washed ashore in Karachi

File photo.

While the quantity of fish is quite small as compared to the last time, fisheries’ experts believe the mass killing this time has been caused by “red tide” – a natural phenomenon which occurs due to the immense growth of marine algae usually in coastal waters.

Red tides, locally termed “mara paani” (in Sindhi) and “bad aab” (in Baloch language), can produce natural toxins or deplete dissolved oxygen, resulting in the death of marine and coastal species of fish and even sometimes birds and marine mammals.

On August 5, around 100 metric tonnes of dead fish, mainly grey mullets, had washed ashore on the beaches of Karachi between Baba Island and Chinna Creek. The mortalities were attributed to the toxic rainwater flowing in the sea from Lyari River, which flows through the industrial areas.

This time, a small quantity of dead fish, including tigertooth croaker, mullets, terapons, scat and seabreams, have been beaching in patches along the Clifton beach since Saturday.

While the dead fish have been attributed to red tide, the reason for the sudden growth of algae is not well understood, experts at World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF) said on Monday.

“But the recurring mortality of natural fish stocks may severely affect the livelihood of the fishermen in the coastal areas,” pointed out WWF-Pakistan Director Rab Nawaz.Fish deaths on account of toxic phytoplankton can be widespread and direct or indirect consumption of such organisms can be harmful for humans.

The WWF-Pakistan has collected samples of the dead fish for analysis to identify the species of phytoplankton causing mass mortality.Moazzam Khan, the marine fisheries technical adviser at WWF-Pakistan, said abrupt growth of toxic phytoplankton was known as “harmful algal bloom”.

Phytoplankton is not harmful to humans and marine animals. But owing to a number of reasons, some of which are still not well understood, these algae grow in millions changing the colour of the water ranging from green to blood red.

Red tides are a regular occurrence in Pakistani waters often resulting in mass mortality of fish. Khalid Mahmood, the co-principal investigator, and Saba Ayub, the data enumerator at WWF-Pakistan, who surveyed the area pointed out that fish mortality was widespread along the entire Clifton coast, mainly at Do Darya and Sea View but the quantities were not large.

Most of the dead fish have already been collected for fish meal processors. Khan was concerned that use of such fish for fish meal and human consumption could lead to serious health issues.

He pointed out the WWF-Pakistan was working with the National Institute of Oceanography to identify the species of phytoplankton responsible for fish mortality. The first such record in Pakistani waters dates back to the 13th century. A red tide in 1906 resulted in the elimination of the entire stock of oysters from waters of Sindh.

The WWF-Pakistan has urged research organisations to keep an eye on the appearance of harmful algal blooms and set up a regular monitoring system as some of these blooms can be harmfully toxic and may lead to serious health issues. - The News.