A string of mysterious deaths of dolphins and whales is sweeping the East Coast – and scientists fear avian flu is to blame.
Data from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center shows that 22 dolphins and five humpback whales have washed ashore in New Jersey since January, but dozens more are stretching into North Carolina.
A spokesperson told DailyMail.com that the dead sea creatures are currently being lab tested for cause of death. Last year, a dolphin died in Florida from avian flu.
Fears of a possible avian flu pandemic in humans have increased in recent weeks after the first tornado through the world’s population.
The virus has already killed more than 330 seals in New England by 2022, and several other mammals, including foxes, raccoons and bears.
The concern is that as the virus spreads to more animals, it will acquire mutations that allow it to infect humans.
A group of eight dolphins are the latest victims of a mysterious spate of deaths along the east coast. The dolphins were found on the beach of Sea Isle City
The highly pathogenic H5N1 has spread around the world over the past 18 months, leading to the deaths of hundreds of millions of domestic birds and countless wild birds.
While experts in the US are still analyzing the recent deaths, a bottlenose dolphin found dead in Florida last year tested positive for the virus.
More recently, the British avian flu has confirmed the killing of two dolphins and these incidents raise concerns about mammal deaths along the US East Coast.
While it’s not clear how the dolphins were infected, the University of Florida suspects the marine mammals likely interacted with a wild bird killed by the virus.
The stranding center for marine mammals rushed to Sea Isle City in New Jersey on Wednesday after a call came in about eight dolphins stranded on the beach.
Rescue crews who spent hours trying to hydrate the stranded dolphins called the lifesaving efforts “tormenting” as they watched the animal’s health deteriorate.
Despite life-saving efforts, two were pronounced dead at the scene. The remaining six dolphins were euthanized several hours later.
While the Marine Mammal Stranding Center reported five humpback whale deaths, a total of 16 died from North Carolina to New York between December 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023, the highest number ever recorded in that specific three-month period.
Officials are testing the whales found on the northeast coast, along with some on the west coast, for bird flu.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center has reported 22 dolphin deaths this year alone. The organization retrieved an e-foot-long bottlenose dolphin from Avalon earlier this month
Two of the dolphins found this week had died at the scene and the remaining six were euthanized hours later
Sheila Dean, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, told me NBC news“This could be a big thing for all marine mammals.” If this is what happens.’
In January, a massive 10-meter-tall humpback whale made headlines after washing up on Long Island in what was then the 10th incident on New York and New Jersey beaches in two months.
There has been a disturbing spike in strandings in recent years, leading the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to declare 2017 an “unusual mortality event.”
Since then, at least 335 humpback whales and minke whales, a small whale species, have died after washing up on the east coast.
According to NOAA, 19 humpback whales will strand on the US Atlantic coast by 2022.
But at the end of February, the number of humpback whales stranded on the East Coast was already 50 percent of 2017’s number, with at least 29 dead whales since December.
Humpback whales are also turning up dead in New Jersey, one lying on the sands of Seaside Park on March 3
New York witnesses mysterious whale death. On January 30, a huge 10-meter-tall humpback whale washed up on Lido Beach
Officials are testing the whales found on the northeast coast, along with some on the west coast, for bird flu. This dead whale was discovered on December 13, 2022 on Rockaway Beach
Included in this disturbing figure are six North Atlantic right whales, a highly endangered species.
The H5N1 virus, which is now the most common strain, was first reported in China in 1996.
The recent outbreak is believed to have originated from ducks in Europe and Asia and then spread to other birds.
The virus has already leaked onto mammals such as minks, foxes, raccoons and bears, raising fears that it could soon develop troubling new mutations that could cause a human pandemic.
At the beginning of this month, China announced two human cases and DailyMail.com revealed how the virus claimed the life of 11-year-old Bean Narong in Cambodia on Feb. 22.
While the Marine Mammal Stranding Center reported five humpback whale deaths, a total of 16 have died from North Carolina to New York between December 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023
The recent deaths follow more than 330 seals killed by avian flu in 2022, but add to growing fears of a species moving to mammals
Scientists on site who made the discovery said the young girl’s death “should be treated with utmost care.”
The team added there were “some indications” that the virus had already passed through a human and picked up the new mutations before infecting the girl.
Dr. Erik Karlsson, who led the team at Cambodia’s Pasteur Institute that decoded the genetic sequence of the girl’s virus, warned that it differed from that of birds.
He told sky news: ‘There are some indications that this virus passed through a human being.
“Every time these viruses invade a new host, they go through certain changes that allow them to replicate a little better or possibly bind a little better to the cells in our airways.”