Tagged covid-19

Fire Season Tips

Part II of a short series

Animals in fires suffer from direct thermal injury as well as injuries from inhalation of chemicals and particulate debris. Certainly burns to the skin are the most obvious, but burns and damage to the respiratory tract from smoke inhalation should not be underestimated. If an animal is close enough to a fire to be burned, it has experienced respiratory injury. If wildfires involve human structures, the smoke plume may contain a mixture of concentrated toxins from incinerated plastics, petroleum products, and other chemicals. The particles can cause primary toxicity and pulmonary damage; external particles on the  animal could transfer and cause problems in human handlers. Proper PPE is essential. Survivors of wildfires present with complications including dehydration, starvation, and traumatic injuries.

 

Most respiratory injuries and thermal burns will worsen in the 2-4 days after they are acquired. However, in some cases, it can take weeks for damage to fully manifest. Treatment is highly invasive, stressful, painful, and costly. Even with gold standard care many animals will not recover enough to be released. It is therefore necessary to have clear and rigorous triage protocols, especially when faced with large scale casualties.  

 

Working closely with a veterinarian will be essential. Burns are painful and most cases require regulated, controlled pharmaceuticals for sedation and analgesia. In addition, debridement and wound care will need to be done under anesthesia in the initial stages. Animals suffering from smoke inhalation will need oxygen therapy, nebulization, ongoing radiographs, and other diagnostic testing. Work with your veterinarian to establish protocols for victims of wildfires before you need them. Quick evaluation, euthanasia, or stabilization will be vital for the welfare of the animal when it arrives in your facility. 

 

Key aspects of triage and treatment for the rehabilitator. 

Triage and Stabilization

  • Triage – “Burns covering 40-50% of the body have a high chance of mortality from sequelae (hypoproteinemia, sepsis, etc.) in domestic animals.” 1
    • Burns may be classified as:
      •  Superficial – Some layers of epidermis still intact
      •  Deep – The dermis is exposed and possibly damaged 
        • Deep burns require advanced treatment, and may not regrow hair or feathers.
        • Burns to the limbs, especially the pedal surfaces, which expose tendon/bone/joints or musculature are not compatible with release.
    • Mucous membranes –  Bright, cherry red gums are indicative of carbon monoxide poisoning
      • Give oxygen therapy without delay.
    • Eyes – Conjunctivitis, due to smoke and particulates, is not uncommon. Lids and corneas may have thermal burns.
      • Flush the eyes with sterile aqueous drops 
      • If you have the tools and training check for corneal ulcers.
      • Apply sterile ophthalmic treatments per species recommendations 
        • No steroids should be applied
    • Ocular and respiratory damage may require euthanasia as a first option.

 

  • Restore Normothermia – Use room temperature isotonic crystalloids to restore normothermia in patients presenting with hyperthermia of fresh burns.
    • Be careful not to cause hypothermia in your patient.
  • Fluid Therapy – Promotes normothermia, tissue perfusion, and mitigates shock.
    • An IV or IO catheter may be necessary if burns cover areas used for SQ administration.
  • Analgesia – Immediately start species appropriate multimodal analgesia.

 

Smoke Inhalation

  • Oxygen therapy is the most important aspect of treating smoke inhalation. 
    • Place the animal in an oxygen chamber.
      • A DIY oxygen chamber can be created quite cheaply, you can find many different plans online at various price points. 
      • Oxygen chambers should have a thermometer and hygrometer inside to monitor and optimize temperature and humidity for your patient.
      • Ensure an opening for venting of carbon dioxide.
  • Appropriate Antibiotics 
      • Chemical and bacterial pneumonia is common after smoke inhalation
      • Monitor with radiographs and/or bloodwork before, during, and after starting antibiotics.
  • Treat anxiety
    • Close confinement and respiratory distress exacerbate anxiety in a wild animal, which in turn makes those conditions even worse. Tranquilization and sedation may be necessary during treatment.
    • Rigorous hospital protocols must include quiet, calm, or even dark conditions with visual and auditory barriers between patients.

 

Burns

Once you have stabilized your patient you can begin wound management for the burns. 

    • For Superficial burns
      • Clip any remaining hair. Do not remove feathers.
      • Lavage away soot or debris. (Several cleaning sessions may be required) 
      • Apply a water based topical to the burn to increase moisture and prevent bacterial growth 
        • Honey, Silver Sulfadiazine (SSD), etc.
      • Cover with a non-adherent (Telfa) or hydrogel bandage
    • For Deep burns
      • Consult with your veterinarian on a plan of action, anesthesia will be needed for debriding and cleaning.
      • In the interim apply a recommended topical to the wound and cover with a non-adherent bandage.
      •  Be prepared for euthanasia; cleaning may reveal more damage than anticipated.
    • Most burns require daily bandage changes at minimum. Your veterinarian may have suggestions to decrease invasive treatments.
    • Monitor the burn. Remember, it may become worse over the next 2-4 days.
    • Maintaining cleanliness of the environment, the animal, and the ICU/container is absolutely essential. Biosecurity to protect the animal from human pathogens includes all appropriate PPE and sterile techniques where applicable.

 

Long-term Care

  • Rehabilitation of wildfire victims takes much longer than normal rehabilitation
    • Likelihood for secondary problems is very high. 
    • Pre-planning must include budgeting for greater than usual expenses and length of stay.
  • Superficial burns to the feet may be treatable and compatible with release, but it may take months to determine. 
  • Singed feathers may require an entire molt cycle (up to 2 years in some species) if imping is not possible. 
  • There may not be an appropriate release site in the aftermath of a large fire. Pre-planning should include this eventuality.
  • Long-term care should include options for supplemental feeding and water after release, especially if habitat is in recovery.

* This document does not replace information or recommendations from your veterinarian.

Works Cited:

      1. Macintire, Douglas K, et al. Manual of Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care Medicine. 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012.

If you would like more information on Fluid Therapy, Pain Management, or Wound Management consider taking the IWRC’s online courses on these subjects or read about them in Wildlife Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Approach.

Fire Season Tips

(Part I of a short series)

In areas affected by seasonal wildfires Covid-19 may cause even greater problems this year. In some regions Covid-19 has meant reduction or cessation of controlled burns to help mitigate fires1. Many rehabilitators are functioning with less volunteers, interns, and paid staff. This makes the need for personal preparation even more important. Use the following tips to help get yourself and/or your center ready for fire season.

Make or Review your Plan

  • Think through the steps to safely evacuate yourself, other people, and the wildlife in your care. If you are a home rehabber, don’t forget to include your pets/livestock.
  • Prioritize! Who/what needs to be evacuated first? What can you afford to leave behind?
  • Print out emergency protocols and review them with anyone that will be helping you in an emergency (partner, volunteers, etc.). Keep them in a binder or folder that is easily accessible.
  • Have emergency supplies in labeled containers that can easily be grabbed as you evacuate.This includes rehab supplies and supplies you and your family will need to survive.

Organize Emergency Information

  • Arrange to get emergency fire/weather alerts via phone or email.
  • If you use a phone tree or phone alert system for employees or volunteers make sure all numbers are up to date and people are willing/able to assist in an emergency.
  •  Have multiple copies of licenses and permits in a fire safe, your evacuation kit, and stored digitally in the cloud.
  • If you lose your home or facility have a plan to transfer your patients to others.
    • Prepare press releases for  local media to redirect rescuers to operational facilities.

Do a Facility Check

  • Clear brush and debris from around your facility, cut branches or limbs that overhang the roof or outdoor enclosures, ensure fire lines are clear.
  • Check smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
    • Members can watch a webinar on fire extinguishers on the IWRC website.
  • Make a list of materials or equipment (i.e O2 tanks) that could be hazardous in a fire. Mark these devices on posted fire escape maps. 
  • Ensure all equipment needed for evacuation (i.e. radios, animal carriers) is in working order.
  • Be prepared to shelter in place if evacuation is not required.

Know the Terrain

  • Know where fires are likely to come from.
  • Plan multiple evacuation routes.
  • Maintain up to date downloaded or paper maps; don’t rely on GPS/phones in an emergency.

Have a drill

  • Go through the motions of evacuation, simply walking through your plan will help.
  • Use every day experiences to prepare- know how long it takes to hook up a trailer, put together animal carriers, or catch up animals. 
  • Adapt and improve your plan as you go (i.e. it takes too long to put carriers together? Use pillow cases instead!).

Works Cited

  1. Phillips C. Covid-19 collision with 2020 fire season will ignite multiple threats. Union of Concerned Scientists, May 11, 2020, [accessed July 6, 2020] https://blog.ucsusa.org/carly-phillips/covid-19-collision-with-2020-fire-season-will-ignite-multiple-threats

IWRC + NWRA Statement on Wildlife Rehabilitation During COVID-19

June 8, 2020        

JOINT STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      

[Eugene, Oregon]

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) find that taxa-specific protocols, based on scientific evidence and region-specific risk assessments, should serve as the basis for an informed approach to managing the risk of disease spread and for formulating any restrictions on wildlife rehabilitation. 

“Wildlife rehabilitation plays an important role in managing human-wildlife interactions. This management, which includes appropriate human and animal health monitoring, becomes more important during a global pandemic like COVID-19” states IWRC executive director Kai Williams.

The IWRC and NWRA are international not-for-profit organizations based in the United States, with memberships extending to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India. Our 2,000+ members include wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators, wildlife biologists, animal behaviorists, government officials, and academicians from institutions across the world. Our members provide expertise in wildlife conservation and welfare, often at the forefront of where humans and wild animals interact.

 

POSITION STATEMENT

COVID-19 Considerations for Wildlife Rehabilitation

 

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Media Contacts:

Kai Williams, Executive Director, The IWRC Office:  (866) 871-1869 x1 Email:  director@theiwrc.org 

Lisa Smith, President, NWRA Email: president@nwrawildlife.org

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

The IWRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through training and resources on wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s mission statement “We provide evidence-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to move the field of wildlife rehabilitation forward; to promote wildlife conservation and welfare; and to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts worldwide, through better understanding of wild animal ecology, behavior, and welfare.” Wildlife rehabilitation is the act of providing temporary care for injured, sick or orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. By providing unique insights into issues affecting wildlife populations, species, and habitats, wildlife rehabilitation contributes to wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide.

 

National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association

The NWRA was born in 1982 at the first National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium in Naperville, Illinois. The rich diversity of expertise and interest represented at the symposium provided a firm foundation for a national organization designed to meet the needs of wildlife rehabilitators. As the mission statement says , NWRA is “dedicated to improving and promoting the profession of wildlife rehabilitation and its contributions to preserving natural ecosystems.”