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E8 responding well to antibiotics, continues to improve

By Staff | Jun 29, 2016

As of June 13, E8, the juvenile American bald eagle, began fighting an infection in the broken bone of the right leg.

The eaglet was found injured near the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Friday, May 13 and brought to CROW. The eaglet arrived thin, dehydrated and very weak. The initial radiographs showed a right leg femur fracture (broken leg) that required surgery that weekend.

“When we realized that he had an infection there, we pulled off all of his fixation device. We took it off a couple days early to see if there was an infection there. We cultured the bone and he had three different types of very bad bacteria that were growing in the bone,” Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said.

All of the bugs are multi-drug resistant bugs that are not capable of being killed off by the vast majority of antibiotics. CROW chose an antibiotic that all of the organisms are sensitive to, which is put directly into the bone and systemically into the muscle.

“It is a very powerful antibiotic,” Barron said. “One of the downsides to it is it can potentially be very hard on the kidney. We are monitoring his profile very carefully and he is also getting additional fluid therapy to help keep him very flushed out while he is on the drug.”

The good news, she said is E8’s complete blood cell count is within normal limits, which means the infection is confined to the bone and is not a systemic wide infection.

When E8 first arrived at CROW, in addition to the fracture, he also had some wounds, which sat for a week before the eaglet was admitted to the hospital. She said there may have already been an infection there from the very beginning.

“The fracture was a week old when we got him here, so all the muscles and tendons had contracted up and the fracture is what we call overriding,” Barron said.

She explained that as time goes on all the muscles and tendons contract up, making it difficult for the fracture to go back into alignment.

“We were able to stretch it back out to some degree when we put on the fixation device, but not able to completely stretch it out to normal length. So one leg is slightly shorter than the other,” Barron said. “That was something we expected. But definitely when you see him walk his gage is very distinctive. Even though his bone is solid and his joints are normal and have full range of motion because he is slightly shorter on the one leg when you watch him walk he looks a little gimpy.”

Although he has one leg that is shorter, staff believes he will be able to hunt normally. E8 also perches and grips things normally and appears to have equal strength on both sides.

A culture sensitivity test was taken again on Wednesday, June 23. CROW should have results within the next three to four days to see if they are still dealing with an infection, or if it is starting to get under control.

“Infections in bones can be very difficult to get rid of,” she said of E8’s osteomyelitis infection. “He has a very bad infection. Luckily he seems to be responding very well to the antibiotic.”

More than a dozen profiles taken on E8 shows that his kidney, liver, and all of his internal organ functions are all functioning normally. All of E8’s functions were very abnormal when he first arrived at CROW, but since becoming normal they have remained that way.

“He still has a long way to go,” Barron said, adding that even if they get the infection under control they still need to make sure it does not return. “Bone is a really hard place to say okay the infection is gone and we are confident that it is gone and not coming back.”

One of the ways to ensure that the infection does not return is to monitor E8 for a while.

In addition to the antibiotic, E8 still remains on pain medication.

Other than the infection, the eaglet continues to use his legs by putting normal weight on them and showing that he is very comfortable on the broken leg.

The eaglet is eating very well on its own, gaining weight and remains bright and alert. E8 spends 100 percent of his time outdoors in the small flight enclosure.

“I’m encouraged,” Baron said. “We have definitely seen a steady improvement in all of the parameters that we have been monitoring.”

The amount of time E8 has spent at CROW since arriving on May 13 is not concerning to Barron at all. She said since the eaglet arrived with a broken femur that was a week old and in severely critical condition, a month is not a long time in the overall scheme of things.

“I’m extremely encouraged a month in he is doing as well as he is,” Barron said. “He was attacked on May 7 and that was when the injury occurred, so he had that first week of getting very, very sick. It doesn’t surprise me that it has taken a while to get him turned around.”

E8 and its larger, older sibling, E7, were seen resting on a branch near the nest on the Pritchett property off Bayshore Road when an owl apparently knocked both fledglings off their perch. This resulted in E8’s injury.

“This guy was absolutely the worse case scenario and he has come a really long way in just over a month,” Barron said.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.