NOAA Fisheries Interim Medical Report on A73

June 21, 2002

The rescue team, made up of five veterinarians, 10 animal care specialists, and several biologists, closely monitored A73 before, during and after the June 13 rescue. The team carried out the rescue swiftly and safely. A73 showed little distress during the rescue and transport to the Manchester holding facility. During the transport, the veterinarians collected several samples to assess her health. These samples included the following:

The following U.S. and Canadian laboratories received the samples and have provided or will be providing NOAA Fisheries with results over the next week: Central Lab for Veterinarians, Langley, B.C., Canada; Vancouver Aquarium; Sea World, San Diego, Calif.; Children's Hospital, Vancouver, Canada; University of California at Davis; Oregon Graduate Institute; Oklahoma State University; and U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Veterinary Services Lab, Ames, Iowa.

Interim Findings: NOAA Fisheries has received results from the blood analyses except for the bacteriology and virology (we anticipate these by July 1), the blowhole culture, fecal analysis, and the urinalysis. Results from the CBC, serum chemistry, and serum protein electrophoresis showed a mild inflammatory condition. The elevated plasma fibrinogen, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and white cell count are all consistent with low-grade inflammation.

A73 has a generalized chronic dermatitis contributing to her unthrifty (mottled skin) appearance. This condition may well be responsible for the indications of inflammatory disease seen in the laboratory test data. Dermatitis with this appearance is generally thought to be the result of poxvirus and is not uncommon in young, wild killer whales. The disease does not seem to be life-threatening and generally has little if any effect other than the unsightly appearance.

Gastrointestinal parasites (eggs and adults) have been found in her stool. These parasites may in a small way also contribute to the inflammatory markers noted in her laboratory tests. The less-than-robust body condition of A73 is most likely the result of inadequate food intake. Finally, the data received indicates that she does not have a genetic disorder.

Next Steps: More blood will be drawn on a weekly basis to monitor her progress. Yesterday she was given a de-worming medication and fluids to help increase her appetite. Stomach fluids were also collected for further analysis. She ate 10 salmon yesterday afternoon. NOAA Fisheries will reassess any new information on her medical status next Tuesday. None of the health problems affecting A73 appears life threatening. Long-term rehabilitation should not be required and we are preparing her for reintroduction. Her current health challenges should not be considered a reason to delay.