Subject: Harbor seal treatment (fwd)

mike williamson (
Fri, 4 Dec 1998 13:35:28 -0500 (EST)

>ISSUED:  =09December 4, 1998
>CONTACT:=09Sue Knapp
>=09=09phone: 617-973-5213
>Boston =96 Biologists and veterinarians at the New England Aquarium and Tu=
>School of Veterinary Medicine announce the successful treatment of a wild
>harbor seal pup with a severe eye infection.  A young male harbor seal, wh=
>was rescued in mid-May from Pemaquid Point, Maine, is the first seal to be
>treated using a specially-designed ophthalmic device that delivers medicin=
>directly to the eye.  This seal pup, simply called #7, will be released to
>the wild about noon on December 9 at Hardings Beach, Chatham, MA (Cape
>Cod).  He will be fitted with a tag and tracked by researchers via satelli=
>When pup #7 arrived at the New England Aquarium, he was underweight and
>suffering from a severe eye infection.  He was fed a high-calorie, high-fa=
>formula that mimics the nourishment he would have received from his mother=
>and he was treated with topical eye medication and oral antibiotics for th=
>infection.  Unfortunately, his eye condition worsened.  A seal=92s ocular
>muscles are very strong, and he was closing his eyes tightly due to the
>infection.  Since biologists could not administer the medicine effectively=
>another method had to be devised. =20
>Under the direction of his general practitioner Dr. Rose Borkowski, Tufts
>University Staff Veterinarian, and Tufts Veterinary Ophthalmologist Dr.
>Anthony Moore, on July 9, 1998, pup #7 was anesthetized and tubes were
>surgically inserted under both of his eyelids.  The tubes were fastened to
>the top of #7=92s head, and small vials were attached to inject the
>medication. =20
>This created an ophthalmic device, called a subpalpebral lavage system
>which is often used with horses, that delivered the medication directly to
>his eyes, even when the eyes were tightly shut.  The device resembled a
>simple intravenous hookup on the top of his head. =20
>Although the tubing system fit closely to #7=92s head, veterinarians and
>biologists were not sure if the device would work and worried that the sea=
>would scratch it with his flipper or somehow remove it while swimming, two
>concerns that don=92t apply with horses.  However, aside from getting stra=
>looks from other rehabilitating seals, #7 fared extremely well.=20
>The implanted device allowed his caretakers to administer medication at
>feeding times and enabled him to swim in the pool in between treatments.
>Due to the severity of the infection, the device remained in place for 14
>weeks.  Twice during that time, #7 traveled to Tufts for exams where Dr.
>Moore removed scar tissue from #7=92s eyes.  By September, his eyes began =
>clear.  The device was removed on October 21, 1998. =20
>His sight has been tested by his ability to catch live fish and navigate
>without injury in his rehabilitation pool.  He is eating well, has reached
>a healthy weight, and is ready to return to life in the wild.  If these
>heroic efforts to help #7 proved unsuccessful, he would have suffered
>permanent sight damage and could not have been reintroduced to the ocean. =
>Since both wild seals and those residing at zoos and aquariums frequently
>suffer from eye ailments, the successful use of this device should benefit
>other aquatic animals worldwide.  By tracking #7 after his release,
>researchers hope to learn the traveling patterns of wild harbor seals, and
>better understand their habits after the rescue and rehabilitation process=
>The tag is funded through WhaleNet=92s Satellite Tagging Observation Progr=
>at Wheelock College.  Follow #7=92s travels at <
>The New England Aquarium/Fleet Bank Marine Animal Rescue Team responds to
>reports of hundreds of marine animals each year.  If you encounter a wild
>seal on the beach, remember that seals are as comfortable on land as in th=
>water, so give it plenty of space.  Do not pour water on the seal or move
>it to the water.  If there is any doubt about its health, call the
>Aquarium=92s 24-hour Marine Animal Rescue Hotline, (617) 973-5247.  In mos=
>cases, you will be asked to observe the animal for 24 hours.  Often, the
>seal is merely resting on shore, or in the case of a seal pup, is waiting
>for its mother.  If the Aquarium=92s experts determine that the animal is
>sick or in trouble, a rescue team will be dispatched.  The Aquarium is
>authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service to intervene on behalf
>of marine animals.
># # #
>Color snapshots and beta footage of #7=92s treatment is available by=20
>calling Sue Knapp in the Aquarium=92s Communications Department at
>Rehabilitating Harbor Seal Eye Treatment, May-December 1998
>Key Veterinarians and Animal Care Staff
>Dr. Rose Borkowski, Staff Veterinarian, Tufts Vet. Med.=20
>Consulting Veterinarian, New England Aquarium
>phone:  508-839-5395 - ask for exotics
>Dr. Anthony Moore, Ophthalmologist, Tufts Vet. Med.
>phone:  508-839-5395 - ask for Ophthalmology
>Dr. Andrew Stamper, Head Veterinarian, NE Aquarium, Boston
>phone:  617-973-5273
>Connie Merigo, NEAq/Fleet Bank Marine Animal Rescue
>phone:  617-973-6551
>Sue Knapp, Senior Publicist/Media Relations
>New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, MA
>phone:  (617) 973-5213  fax: (617) 723-9705
>Web site
Greg Early
Edgerton Research Laboratory=09=09=09=09
New England Aquarium
Central Wharf
Boston, Mass 02110
617-973-5246 (phone)
617-723-6207 (FAX)=09=09