It is related to the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, which can cause blood poisoning in cetaceans and occur in more animals. The bacteria can cause a disease called fish scale disease in humans, especially if it comes into contact with dead animals.
Piglets often wash ashore in the Netherlands, but the fact that so many of them were found in such a short period of time was “unprecedented,” according to SOS Dolfijn.
Researchers from Wageningen & Research University and the University of Utrecht examined 22 fish, three-quarters of which were found to carry the bacteria. The animals probably died around the same time.
Until their death, the porpoises were in reasonable or good condition, so sudden death is likely, according to the researchers. Eleven had an empty stomach and the others didn’t eat much either. Researchers don’t know why.
Much remains unclear about what exactly happened. “Special weather conditions may be partly responsible for the widespread washing of animals, which must have died far at sea,” the researchers say.
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