Emerging diseases in marine mammals
Bossart, Gregory D. Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Department, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, Fort Pierce, Florida.
- Complex infectious and neoplastic diseases
- Anthropogenic toxins and biotoxins
- Ocean and human health
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The emerging and resurging disease phenomenon over the past 25 years is a growing and serious issue that has implications for human, animal, and ecosystem health on a global basis. Indeed, the complacency of the human and veterinary medical community toward the end of the 1970s in thinking that emerging diseases were under our control is no longer justified. In fact, emerging diseases now have the potential to negatively impact the entire planet because of the closely interconnected global community. The cause of this phenomenon is complex and multifactorial and may reflect an “environmental distress syndrome” whereby ecologic and climatic changes, likely associated with human activities, are encouraging the selection of new and opportunistic pathogens. Similar but less publicized emerging disease trends are now being documented in marine ecosystems and are impacting marine mammals. Emerging and resurging diseases of marine mammals may have zoonotic implications (being transmissible from animals to humans), epizootic potential (affecting many animals of one kind in one region simultaneously), and a complex pathogenesis involving noninfectious cofactors including anthropogenic toxins, immunologic suppression, and other environmental stressors. Advanced diagnostic technologies have greatly enhanced the ability to identify disease etiologies, and marine mammal veterinarians have played a critical role in identifying diseases occurring in marine mammals and the impact that these diseases have on individuals, populations, and the ecosystem as a whole.
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