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NORFOLK, Va. — A virus may be to blame for the mysterious deaths of more than 250 bottlenose dolphins that are washing ashore on beacches up and down the East Coast from the New Jersey shore to Norfolk, Va.

This is the most fatal year for dolphins since 1987, when more than 740 dolphins died.

So far in July and August, 253 dead bottlenose dolphins have washed ashore along the East Coast, which is ten times the average. Scientists believe the virus called morbillivirus, similar to the measles in humans, may be killing them.

“Dolphins are very cohesive groups of animals. They’re very social with each other, within the groups they travel in. And so a lot of diseases probably pass between each other through that close contact. I like to use the analogy of colds in humans,” explained Mendy Garron, Northeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator.

Scientists say if you see an animal on the beach, remain a safe distance away. There are no cases of the morbillivirus transmitting to humans, but marine mammals carry a lot of different diseases that could potentially affect pets and then transfer to humans.