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Diseased dolphins beach on local Florida shores

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Updated: 11/20/2013 7:46 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Diseased dolphins have stranded themselves all along Florida's eastern shorelines. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tells Action News in the last month alone, it has recorded one beaching in Fernandina, two in Huguenot Park, one in Jacksonville Beach, three in St. Augustine and one in Mayport, and the numbers are on the rise on the Atlantic Coast.

"It's picked up in the last week, really," said FWC marine biologist, biologist Nadia Gordon.

Gordon said several of the dolphins that have beached have tested positive for a condition called the morbillivirus.

"It could be considered comparable to the measles that a human would see," she said.

While the virus itself isn't contagious to humans, the condition weakens the dolphins' immune system, and it could cause them to carry other diseases humans could contract upon contact.

"We ask you not to intervene, and that's especially what people want to do with a live animal, is they want to get in there and see if they can help, but that's not what we're asking at this point in time," she said.

Scientists aren't sure what's causing the outbreak, but they know it stems from dolphins in the northeast.

"It started in New York, and it's moved its way down," said Gordon.

They're hoping necropsies on locally infected animals will give them more insight.

Scientists say a similar outbreak occurred in 1987, so this time they're a bit more prepared, but there is no cure. Anyone who sees a stranded dolphin is asked to contact the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

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