Harmful algal bloom events caused by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis occurred along the central west Florida, USA, coast from February 2005 through December 2005 and from August 2006 through December 2006. During these events, from 4 February 2005 through 28 November 2006, live, debilitated seabirds admitted for rehabilitation showed clinical signs that included disorientation, inability to stand, ataxia, and seizures. Testing of blood, biologic fluids, and tissues for brevetoxin by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay found toxin present in 69% (n=95) of rehabilitating seabirds. Twelve of the 19 species of birds had evidence of brevetoxin exposure. Commonly affected species included Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), and Common Loons (Gavia immer). Serial blood and fecal samples taken from several live seabirds during rehabilitation showed that brevetoxin was cleared within 5–10 days after being admitted to the rehabilitation facility, depending on the species tested. Among seabirds that died or were euthanized, the highest brevetoxin concentrations were found in bile, stomach contents, and liver. Most dead birds had no significant pathologic findings at necropsy, thereby supporting brevetoxin-related mortality.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2