Whales, diseases

From: Dagmar Fertl (dagmar_fertl@hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Mar 08 2001 - 13:55:16 EST

Dear Dagmar,


I am completing research on whales. I am in the fourth grade at Mulligan
School in Central Islip, New York. I am writing this e-mail to see if you
can provide me with some information about whales.
One question I have is what types of diseases are whales prone to getting?
I hope you can provide some information regarding this question.
Thank You,

Tara Maguire


Hi Tara. Sounds like an interesting paper you're working on. I can't speak for which diseases that whales are 'prone' to get, because a lot of what we know about this topic comes from stranded animals (which are usually sick or dying) or from animals in captivity (which may not be a good representation of what is going on in the wild). I can tell you that pneumonia is a problem. I'm going to provide a list of known diseases for marine mammals that was prepared a long time ago, and is not up to date. I would recommend that if you can - contact perhaps a stranding network (there are some listed on-line), SeaWorld (a marine mammal vet there), etc. for more up-to-date information. If you are able to locate a copy of the "CRC Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine" via a library (a public library or university library should be able to obtain a copy for you) that is probably the best source. Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of that book myself.

In your paper, you might want to mention that there is a lot of concern that pollutants in the water, such as organochlorines, may be suppressing the immune systems of many marine mammals and making it harder for them to fight off viruses, such as morbillivirus (related to measles) and causing them to die. Morbillivirus has been listed as a cause of death in many situations of mass mortalities.

But anyway, here's a basic list:

Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels):

Myocardial conditions

Atheroscelerosis and Arteriosclerosis

Digestive System:

Gastric ulcers




Hepatic cirrhosis


Pancreatic fibrosis

Clostridial enterotoxemia



Parasitic cysts


Clostridial Infection

Eye, ear, nose and throat:

Corneal edema and ulceration


Parastitic infection

Gingivitis and loss of baleen plates


Respiratory System:

Pulmonary aspirgillosis

Pulmonary nocardiosis



Urogenital System:


Ovarian cysst

Urinary calculi

Orchitis, testicular necrosis


Benign tumors

Dermal fibroma

(and a long list of possible others)


Cavities (Dental caries)


Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin B1 deficiency

Fetal defects and neonatal disease


Thyroid pathology

Bone pathology




It's a long and complicated list, which means you will likely need to go to a medical reference book or encyclopedia. Hope this helps though.


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