Emmie was admitted on October 30, suffering from extreme lethargy, decreased heart rate and swelling around the eyes and cloacal areas. All of these symptoms, patterned with the fact she was rescued from Lee County, pointed towards red tide intoxication. In the past month Manatee and Lee County had documented red tide blooms in the near shore waters.
In the past 10 years, red tide a brevetoxin produced by a dinoflagellate called Karenia brevis, causes neurologic issues in all kinds of animals, including humans. This toxin is a part of a group of organisms that produce marine toxins called HABs (harmful algal blooms). Animals show issues with their respiratory systems, central nervous systems and gastrointestinal tracts. In Emmie’s case, she had depressed central nervous signs and edema (swelling caused by subcutaneous fluid) around her eyes and vent.
To help her out, we suspected the toxin load and dealt with giving her some fluids to help flush the toxin out of her systems as medical maintenance as well as respiratory and pulmonary stimulants (lungs and heart, respectively). Luckily for Emmie, she was caught early enough that the toxin had not damaged her central nervous system too badly and with a few days of supportive fluid therapy, she started bouncing back; her heart rate came back up to a normal range, she became more active in her dry dock, and her eye swelling resolved. After four days of careful medical management, she was able to go for supervised swim periods. Six days after admit, she was swimming on her own for the day and started eating very well. She has had three serial blood samples taken and run by Florida Wildlife Research Institute and she has almost completely cleared the toxin load from her system.
Today Emmie is a fast swimming, fast eating, beautiful little green sea turtle and as soon as we receive clearance from our veterinary team and have a release site, she will be released before the winter.