Researchers announced last month that the 400-plus dolphins found dead along the East Coast likely succumbed to morbillivirus, and new data suggest ecological interactions are keeping the virus in circulation. Morbillivirus, related to human measles, likely passed to dolphins from pilot whales, which are carriers of the virus. Experts believe the nature of immunity in bottlenose dolphins and the small size of the population contribute to a scenario in which the disease occurs in epidemic waves, as it did in the 1980s. The current outbreak may not be over, as migrating dolphins could spread the disease to nonmigratory populations as far south as Florida.

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