Antibiotics Administered to Injured Whales

RIO VISTA, Calif. — Veterinarians were successful today in administering antibiotics to the mother whale and calf that have remained in the Sacramento River.

The antibiotics were administered using custom made syringes deployed via a remote operating apparatus into the muscle tissue of both whales. “We are very pleased that we were able to administer these meds,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, Director of Marine Mammal Health for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “This is the very first time antibiotics have been administered to whales in the wild, and it took an exceptional collaboration.”

Scientists are hopeful these medications will help the whales combat infection they are facing as a result of the injuries sustained from a boat incident and their stay in fresh water.

The antibiotics include enrofloxacin (trade name “Baytril”), which has been donated by Bayer Animal Health Care, and ceftiofur (trade name “Excede”) donated by Pfizer Animal Health. Preparation of the Baytril in dosages appropriate for the whales was done by Grandpa’s Compounding Pharmacy in Placerville, Calif.

Rescuers will use the next few days to assess the health condition of the two humpback whales. “The goals of this weekend’s health assessment are to collect samples of the whales’ breath and skin and obtain another tissue biopsy from the mother,” said Rowles. “Conditions on the water and the cooperation of the whales will determine what collection activities can be attempted and completed.”

The breath analysis will help determine the general health condition of the whales and whether the calf is nursing. Today’s effort to collect the exhaled breath was hampered by environmental conditions and the activity of the whales. Efforts to obtain the breath sample will resume tomorrow.

The skin sample, once obtained, will be tested to help determine the nature of lesions that have developed on the skin of both animals. The biopsy sample of the adult whale will be compared to the sample taken earlier in the week to evaluate any changes in her condition.

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