As some of you might already know, a disease called fibropapilloma (FP) virus is affecting a lot of our juvenile green sea turtles and decimating their population. This virus is caused by water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers along with an increase of our warming water temperatures. This virus results in cauliflower like growths which can be seen along the soft tissues of the turtles. These growths are vascular and connected directly to the turtles blood supply so a lot of these guys come in very weak and anemic as a result of the virus.
Most recently we have been having an influx of turtles coming in with FP tumors growing around their eyes. In the past two weeks we have had six turtles come into our hospital with these growths. Some of these growths can unfortunately impair the turtles vision and result in partial or complete blindness which means the turtle is non-releasable. A few of our patients have undergone tumor removal surgery and are doing quite well considering circumstances.
Ron was admitted at the first of this month with ping pong ball sized tumors growing around both eyes. Dr. Cathy came in and essentially “shaved” those tumors down to see if Ron has any vision. Luckily he does. At the time we also performed an endoscope and found out Ron should really be named Rhonda. Ron has been doing exceptionally well and just recently started becoming more active and eating on his own.
Dennis was admitted the following day after Ron with the same case; however, smaller growths seemed to be impairing his vision. Dennis’ tumors were also removed and he continues to show improvement daily.
Haigui (Chinese for sea turtle) was rescued this past Wednesday in Key West after she was seen with the FP tumors. She was admitted with tumors growing around the eyes and unfortunately had to have one of her eyes completely removed because of the large tumor protruding from her cornea. Haigui is still being evaluated on whether she will be releasable or not but has high spirits considering the trauma she’s been through.
The FP virus has made a surge this season with at least 30 patients coming in with heavy tumor loads. Again, a result of human negligence due to water runoff. Ongoing research is occurring around the country with various universities trying to learn more about the virus and ultimately find a cure for it. The Turtle Hospital is currently participating in research with the University of Georgia to help combat the virus. You can help by again keeping the pollution out of our waters and educating yourselves right here on our website about what you can do to help our sea turtles and preserve their species in other ways. As always stay posted to the website for updates on these three patients.
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