Wellfleet Bay Virus

Since 1998, cyclic mortality events in common eiders (Somateria mollissima), numbering in the hundreds to thousands of dead birds, have been documented along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA). The virus attacks the liver and gallbladder. Eider ducks collected from these mass die-offs appear healthy and are not emaciated from long illness; they die from liver failure. Detecting the cause of the massacre has proven enigmatic.

Now, research has identified a novel orthomyxovirus, tentatively named Wellfleet Bay Virus, as a potential causative agent of these outbreaks[1].
[Image: blog.momoet.ee]
Analysis of Wellfleet Bay Virus revealed that it is most closely related to members of the Quaranjavirus genus within the family Orthomyxoviridae. The researchers also suggested that the virus might be transmitted by ticks.

Although Wellfleet Bay Virus shows low to moderate levels of similarity to Quaranfil Virus and Johnston Atoll Virus, both members of the Quaranjavirus genus, additional antigenic and genetic analyses demonstrated that it is closely related to the recently identified Cygnet River Virus from South Australia, suggesting that Wellfleet Bay Virus and Cygnet River Virus may be geographic variants of the same virus.

Although the identification of Wellfleet Bay Virus in part may resolve the enigma of these mass mortality events, the details of the ecology and epidemiology of the virus remain to be determined. As is the potential effect of this virus on humans.

[1] Allison et al: Cyclic avian mass mortality in the northeastern United States is associated with a novel orthomyxovirus in Journal of Virology – 2014

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