Wednesday October 23, 2019
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Disaster continues: BP oil spill killing dolphins at an alarming rate

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

After the 2010 BP oil spill, Dolphins swimming in the oil-contaminated waters of the Gulf of Mexico have suffered from lung lesions and are dying at high rates because of petroleum pollution, as per a recent study.

More than 1,300 bottlenose dolphins have stranded themselves in the northern Gulf of Mexico since early 2010. The recent research links this unusual mortality event to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The rise in the death toll of dolphin began shortly before the spill in April 2010, when 4.9 million barrels of oil was spilled into the ocean, and the scientists have struggled to understand whether the two events are related. According to a report of PLOS ONE, all the underwater animals found dead had lung and adrenal-gland lesions that are consistent with exposure to petroleum compounds.

Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation said, “Dolphins take big, deep breaths right at the surface of the water, where oil sheens are most concentrated, and where there is a good chance of inhaling oil itself.”

According to the research which compared autopsies of 46 dolphins that were found dead in the spill area had lesions in the lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones and stress response. That’s when researchers came to know that something is wrong with the dolphins.

Kathleen Colegrove, pathologist at the University of Illinois said, “We found that dolphins that died after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas.”

One out of three stranded dolphins in the spill area had a thinned adrenal gland cortex, a rate that was significantly higher than the reference population of stranded dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, in which one in 10 had such a condition.

Colegrove told reporters during a conference call to discuss the findings, “The thinning of the adrenal gland cortex was a very unusual abnormality for us that has not been previously reported in dolphins in the literature. This is something which is latest in a series of research papers on dolphin health in the region after the spill.”

Other differences were also apparent. More than one in five dolphins from the mass-death group had bacterial pneumonia, a serious lung disease that was severe enough to cause or contribute to the animals’ deaths.

Venn-Watson described that inhaling oil can cause adrenal dysfunction, lung disease and bacterial pneumonia, which is one of the most common outcomes of chemical inhalation injury in other animals. Whereas other diseases like brucellosis and morbillivirus are also responsible for increase in the number of deaths.

A 2013 study on cetaceans in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, found that dolphins were losing their teeth, had lung lesions and high pervasiveness of disease after the worst oil spill in US history.

Venn-Watson added, “Combination of live and dead dolphin analyses, including the latest study, have provided a strong body of evidence. We feel that this study is a critical link in the chain.”

According to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), minimum 1.300 dolphins have washed up in the area of the Gulf of Mexico since the spill. An additional 114 were stranded from February, two months prior to the spill, until April 20.

Geoff Morell, BP senior vice president for US communications and external affairs said, “This new paper fails to show that the illnesses observed in some dolphins were caused by exposure to Macondo oil.” After BP took the issue to the scientific findings.

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Florida Becomes Latest Place to Declare Public Health Emergency Over Hepatitis A

Florida had 65 new cases in the past two weeks alone, bringing the total to 2,034, state officials said

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FILE - Mexican Health Ministry representatives give migrants free shots for the flu, hepatitis B, tetanus, and preventible children's diseases at the Barretal shelter for migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 6, 2018. VOA

Officials have declared a public health emergency over the rising number of hepatitis A cases in Florida, the latest part of the country dealing with outbreaks of the liver disease. Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees declared an emergency Thursday to allow the state to spend more on testing and treatment, saying Florida has had more than 2,000 cases since the beginning of the year compared with 548 all of last year. Most have been in central Florida, and health officials are still investigating the sources.

“We urge vaccination and stress the importance of washing your hands regularly,” Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said in a tweet. Philadelphia also declared an emergency Thursday, and Mississippi officials announced an outbreak in their state earlier in the week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Kentucky has had 4,793 cases since an outbreak there in 2017; since 2018, Ohio has had 3,220 and West Virginia 2,528.

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver and is spread through food, water and objects tainted by feces, or through close contact. Its flulike symptoms, if they occur, usually last about two months. It had been considered a disease that was fading away, thanks in part to vaccines available since 1995. As recently as 2015, fewer than 1,400 cases were reported nationwide.

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Florida had 65 new cases in the past two weeks alone, bringing the total to 2,034, state officials said. Pixabay

But three years ago, a wave of outbreaks among homeless people and illicit drug users began appearing in the U.S. More than two dozen states have reported such outbreaks since then, with more than 22,500 cases, including 221 deaths. Vaccines have typically been administered to children, but many of the new cases have been in adults.

ALSO READ: US Drug Overdose Deaths More Common in Cities than Rural Areas

Florida had 65 new cases in the past two weeks alone, bringing the total to 2,034, state officials said. That compares with 548 last year and 276 cases in 2017. Dr. Eugene Schiff, director for liver diseases at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and former epidemic intelligence service officer for CDC, told The Associated Press that the disease is likely spreading in Florida among homeless and unvaccinated people. He said intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men and the homeless are at a higher risk for the illness.

“Homelessness is a big issue throughout the country and in Florida, and they are at higher risk to spread hepatitis A around,” Dr. Schiff said. “It is more epidemic in the homeless community.” But he noted that the vaccine protects people against the disease: “This is entirely preventable. It is not that this is a virulent strain, there is just a larger risk if people haven’t been vaccinated.” (VOA)