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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 115:185-191 (2015)  -  DOI:

Case descriptions of fibropapillomatosis in rehabilitating loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta in the southeastern USA

Annie Page-Karjian1,*, Terry M. Norton2, Craig Harms3, Doug Mader4, Larry H. Herbst5, Nancy Stedman6, Nicole L. Gottdenker

1University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pathology, 501 D.W. Brooks Drive, Athens, GA 30602, USA
2Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island Authority, 214 Stable Road, Jekyll Island, GA 31527, USA
3North Carolina State University, Center for Marine Sciences and Technology and College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, 303 College Circle, Morehead City, NC 28557, USA
4The Turtle Hospital, 2396 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050, USA
5Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
6Busch Gardens Zoo Hospital, 3605 East Bougainvillea Avenue, Tampa, FL 33612, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a debilitating neoplastic disease that affects all species of hard-shelled sea turtles, including loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. FP can represent an important clinical concern in rehabilitating turtles, since managing these infectious lesions often requires special husbandry provisions including quarantine, and FP may affect clinical progression, extend rehabilitation duration, and complicate prognoses. Here we describe cases of rehabilitating loggerhead turtles with FP (designated FP+). Medical records of FP+ loggerhead cases from 3 sea turtle rehabilitation facilities in the southeastern USA were reviewed. Between 2001 and 2014, FP was observed in 8 of 818 rehabilitating loggerhead turtles (0.98% overall prevalence in admitted patients). FP+ loggerhead size classes represented were large juvenile (straight carapace length, SCL: 58.1-80 cm; n = 7) and adult (SCL >87 cm; n = 1). Three turtles presented with FP, and 5 developed tumors during rehabilitation within a range of 45 to 319 d. Sites of new tumor growth included the eyes, sites of trauma, neck, and glottis. FP+ turtles were scored as mildly (3/8), moderately (4/8), or heavily (1/8) afflicted. The mean total time in rehabilitation was 476 ± 355 d (SD) (range: 52-1159 d). Six turtles were released without visible evidence of FP, 1 turtle was released with mild FP, and 1 turtle with internal FP was euthanized. Clinical decision-making for FP+ loggerhead patients can be aided by such information as time to tumor development, anatomic locations to monitor for new tumor growth, husbandry considerations, diagnostic and treatment options, and comparisons to FP in rehabilitating green turtles Chelonia mydas.

KEY WORDS: FP · CFPHV · ChHV5 · Rehabilitation · Epidemiology · Captive care · Survival outcomes

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Cite this article as: Page-Karjian A, Norton TM, Harms C, Mader D, Herbst LH, Stedman N, Gottdenker NL (2015) Case descriptions of fibropapillomatosis in rehabilitating loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta in the southeastern USA. Dis Aquat Org 115:185-191.

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