Measles kills blue whales

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Paris (AP) - Blue whales in the Mediterranean are dying of a mysterious disease that some researchers suspect may be a strain of measles.

There are only about 3,000 blue whales in the western Mediterranean. Scientists at the University of Corsica said at least four whales that succumbed to the illness had symptoms of measles, including spots.

The French medical journal Research said the whales were discovered between September and November. Their skin was mottled "like the effect of paint thinner on paint", the journal said. One whale, found near Ajaccio, Corsica had an abnormally large number of red blood cells and had suffered from a high fever, both classic symptoms of the measles.

Researchers have sent samples to a laboratory in Ireland to determine whether the fatal disease was the same one that killed more than 5,000 dolphins in the Mediterranean in 1991. The dead whales all had high levels of lead, mercury and cadmium in their systems, which would have lowered their immune systems.