April 23, 2010

In the Spotlight- Recent Disease Investigation from USGS National Wildlife Health Center

From the Latest USGS National Wildlife Health Center Quarterly Wildlife Mortality Report

Washington seabird mortality event from algal surfactant (Washington)
Photo courtesy of Discover Magazine

A massive algal bloom of Akashiwo sanguinea, a dinoflagellate, off the coast of Washington during September and October of 2009, resulted in multiple seabird mortality events along the state’s coastline. The first indication of affected birds was from Olympic National Park rangers seeing sick and dead surf and white-winged scoters.

Carcasses were sent to USGS-National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and National Park Service for examination. Some birds had a suspect ring of greasy, matted feathers where they were in contact with water, and were emaciated. No pathogens were isolated. Examination of feathers by University of California-Santa Cruz identified a plumage fouling agent produced by the lysing of A. sanguinea cells that inhibits feather waterproofing.

A similar stranding event was previously reported in Monterey Bay, California [Jessup et al. 2009. Mass stranding of marine birds caused by a surfactant-producing red tide. PLoS One 4(2)]. Two additional locations at Neah Bay and Long Beach, Wash., had simultaneous outbreaks in seabirds, including common murres, common loons, red-throated loons, northern fulmars, and western grebes. Multiple state and federal agencies, volunteers, university personnel, and rehabilitation facilities collaborated in this response effort. Final mortality estimates are not available at this time, but it is likely over 10,000 birds were affected.

For the full report on other interesting disease investigations, get the USGS National Wildlife Health Center Quarterly Mortality Report for October 2009 to December 2009 here.

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