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Ailing orca whale to get dewormer, antibiotic

J-50 swims with her pod. (File photo by Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries)

The sick orca — J-50 — has a parasite not uncommon to killer whales and other marine animals, according to NOAA.

Video: Team attempts to feed live salmon to ailing orca

Results from fecal samples taken from 3-year-old J-50 are starting to come in from laboratories from across the country. The first results were collected last weekend from J16/Slick, J42/Echo, and J50/Scarlett.

NOAA says the worm is usually not an issue for healthy animals, but can pose problems for animals that are experiencing other issues or that are emaciated. The parasites can penetrate the stomach lining or other internal organs, introducing bacteria to the bloodstream.

It’s not clear if the sample is from J-50, but a veterinary team plans to include a dewormer, in addition to an antibiotic, to her treatment. They believe it should help J-50 reduce burdens to her system and allow her to start regaining weight that she’s lost. NOAA says dewormer and antibiotics have proven safe and successful in other whales.

J-50 and the J Pod are currently in open waters off the west side of Vancouver, according to NOAA. Response teams will administer J-50’s treatment once the pod returns to the protected waters of the Salish Sea.

The Lummi Nation attempted to feed live salmon from a boat to J-50 on Aug. 12, but it’s unclear if she ate. Despite falling about a half-mile behind her pod, observers noted her energetic behavior.

J50 was given antibiotics via a dart as she and her pod entered U.S. waters on Aug. 9. Researchers also obtained a breath sample to further assess the orca’s health. They’ve ruled out respiratory diseases as the cause of her condition.

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