NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Tragedy has hit the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico again. Zoo officials say Thorn, a three-year-old male elephant at the zoo, died in the early morning hours on Christmas Day from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV).

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This follows the deaths of four apes from Shigella infection back in September.

The BioPark’s animal care team provided round-the-clock treatments since the virus was first detected in Thorn’s bloodwork on December 15. The virus is found in elephants in the wild and in human care, and it is the leading cause of death of Asian elephant calves.

“Our whole team is devastated by the passing of our young Thorn,” said Stephanie Stowell, ABQ BioPark Director. “EEHV is a terrible disease that impacts Asian elephants worldwide. Our team worked tirelessly and did everything they could to save Thorn. They displayed incredible devotion in trying to save him.”

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All elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state through their entire lives without negative effects. It is not known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency. Elephants are most susceptible to EEHV from 18 months to 8 years of age. In some cases, an elephant’s viral load reaches a fatal level within a matter of days. Adult elephants are less susceptible to the virus because their immune system is more robust.

The virus was first identified in the 1990s. While a lot is still unknown about this virus, the body of knowledge continues to grow, thanks to a network of researchers and accredited zoos.