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USGS: Coral suffering epidemic

November 24, 2012
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - A report by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that an outbreak of coral disease along Kauai's North Shore is an epidemic.

Dr. Thierry Work, head of infectious disease for the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Garden Island that this was the first time that white coral disease on this scale has been documented in Hawaiian corals.

In late September, Work and other scientists got a look at the unusual outbreak along Kauai's North Shore. They photographed diseased coral and took samples, while also applying a marine epoxy to try to stop the disease's progression.

Work said the disease is rapidly spreading. A report released Wednesday said microscopic changes in tissue suggest that the corals are under some type of stress.

"I have never seen a cyanobacterial disease like this killing corals to this degree in Hawaii," he said. "This is truly an unusual event."

Another big concern is whether this new strain of cyanobacteria is infectious to humans and marine life. Work said he and other scientists involved in the ongoing study have spotted puffer fish with skin discoloration and unusual lesions on their fins.

"Right now I have no evidence that there's any relationship between the coral disease and what's happening to the turtles and fish," Work said. "We're going to try to come out next week to look at the fish, to see what's causing the lesions."



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