Health advisory for fibropapilloma disease

Marine Turtle Newsletter 49:27. 1990.

[Ed. note: Although published in 1990, George Balazs suggested we post this in light of recent discussions on CTURTLE concerning the possibility of spreading fibropapilloma through tagging.]

George Balazs1 and Elliot Jacobson2

1National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Honolulu Laboratory, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-2396, USA
2College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610 USA

Since fibropapilloma may be caused by an infectious agent, adequate precautions are needed to prevent the additional spread of this life-threatening disease through tagging and other research activities. Safeguards especially need to be implemented when using tags that require puncturing of the flipper prior to application. The tool used for pre-punching, as well as any other items that pierce or abrade the skin, should be thoroughly cleaned of residue tissue and sterilized before using on another turtle. One recommended method of cold sterilization involves soaking the equipment in activated Glutaraldehyde for as long as possible and practical (for up to 10 hours, but even several minutes is better than nothing). Since activated Glutaraldehyde is irritating to living tissue, soaking must be followed by rinsing in sterile water. In areas where the disease is indigenous, we recommend that two sets of tools be used one for obviously diseased animals and one for apparently healthy animals (nonetheless, all tools should be sterilized). Activated Glutaraldehyde, sold under the brand name Omnicide (catalog no. 25183) can be obtained from Baxter Health Care Co., Hospital Supply Division, Deerfield, Illinois 60015 USA. Until more in known about the etiology of fibropapilloma and other sea turtle diseases in the wild, it would behoove all researchers to incorporate precautionary measures against the inadvertent spread of infection.


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