By Tim Jimenez, Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Federal officials say a virus, similar to measles in humans, is likely the cause of the hundreds of dolphin deaths along the East Coast, including 74 in New Jersey.

Bottlenose dolphins are washing ashore this summer between New York and North Carolina. Experts say it’s nine times the historical average for July and August. The likely cause, officials say, is morbillivirus.

Dr. Terri Rowles with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it’s an outbreak similar to one in the late 80s that killed over 700 dolphins and this time could spread south and last through next spring.

Officials say many of these dolphins, younger than 26-years-old, have little to no immunity to the virus.

Experts say morbillivirus, which causes legions on the dolphins’ skin and in their mouths, is no threat to humans.