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Mass mortalities due to disease outbreaks have recently affected major taxa in the oceans. For closely monitored groups like corals and marine mammals, reports of the frequency of epidemics and the number of new diseases have increased recently. A dramatic global increase in the severity of coral bleaching in 1997-98 is coincident with high El Niño temperatures. Such climate-mediated, physiological stresses may compromise host resistance and increase frequency of opportunistic diseases. Where documented, new diseases typically have emerged through host or range shifts of known pathogens. Both climate and human activities may have also accelerated global transport of species, bringing together pathogens and previously unexposed host populations.