Bottlenose dolphin dies off Sunny Isles Beach

Measles kills hundreds of dolphins on Atlantic Coast, biologist says


SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla.A bottlenose dolphin was shivering off of Sunny Isles Beach Tuesday afternoon. Three rescuers stood in the water with the mammal until it died.

The light gray dolphin was stranded on the ocean near the Trump International Beach Resort, 18001 Collins Ave. The death comes as scientists continue to study a measles epidemic of unprecedented proportions that is targeting bottlenose dolphins along the east coast.

Laura Diaz, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the bottlenose dolphin was likely suffering from measles, also known as morbilli-virus.

Bottlenose dolphins migrate south for the winter. In the past year, a record number of dolphins have been dying on beaches from the Florida Keys to New York due to the virus.

The virus induces pneumonia and attacks the liver. Nothing can be done for animals once they are infected. There are no vaccines or anti-viral medications available for dolphins, according to NOAA.

Marine biologists have seen more than 1,500 dolphins die from the virus along the Atlantic Coastline since 2013, Diaz said.

The last measles outbreak to hit dolphins, Diaz said, was from 1987 to 1988 -- when more than 700 dolphins died of the virus. That was when the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act assigned the "depleted" status to the bottlenose dolphins.

The rescuers made contact with the dolphin about 3 p.m., after beach goers spotted the mammal and called police.

Diaz said that when the dolphins are stranded, because of the virus, they are usually dehydrated, skinny and have lesions around the mouth.

A Sunny Isles Beach fire rescue pickup truck arrived about 5 p.m., and a dozen people placed the long body of the dolphin on the back of the truck near a card box and a plastic gallon of water.

The discovery of the dolphin was intriguing to beach goers who stopped what they were doing to stare at the scene for at least two hours.