Deadly virus discovered in dolphin species found in Hawaiian waters

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Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 5:46 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Researchers at the University of Hawaii have discovered a deadly virus that effects a species of dolphin found in waters off Hawaii.

After two years of investigation, researchers said they found a novel strain of morbillivirus in a Fraser’s dolphin that was stranded on Maui in 2018.

The marine mammal disease is responsible for deadly outbreaks among dolphins and whales around the world. Officials said over 200 dolphins have already died in waters off Brazil in a morbillivirus outbreak.

Scientists said the virus discovered is the first linked to Fraser’s dolphin.

“It’s significant to us here in Hawaii because we have many other species of dolphins and whales — about 20 species that call Hawaii home — that may also be vulnerable to an outbreak from this virus,” said Kristi West, lab director at UH Health and Stranding Lab.

Researchers said the virus is especially concerning as Fraser’s dolphins are highly social and interact closely with other dolphins and whales in Hawaiian waters, meaning it could easily spread to other marine animals.

The UH Health and Stranding Lab said the next step is to focus on antibody testing of Hawaiian dolphins and whales.

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