Just days after 3-year-old Asian elephant, Thorn, died from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) at the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, zoo officials report a second case of EEHV in a eight-year-old female elephant named Jazmine.
Jazmine’s blood was tested frequently after Thorn’s positive test on December 15, and the virus was detected in her blood on December 28. The BioPark’s animal care staff immediately began treating the disease with antiviral medication and plasma transfusions.
It is not yet known how the virus is transmitted or if Jazmine and Thorn are carrying the same strain. Individual elephants react differently to the virus, and the BioPark cautions that it is too early to tell how it will impact Jazmine, who is older and has a more developed immune system than her younger brother. Jazmine did not test positive for EEHV when it claimed the life of her sister Daizy in 2015.
EEHV is a herpesvirus that is present in some form in all elephants, both wild and those in human care. It causes hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal in young elephants. There are several strains of the virus.
All elephants can carry the virus 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 the virus from 18 months to 8 years of age. In some cases, the virus load reaches a fatal level within a matter of days. EEHV is the largest single cause of death in Asian elephants in North America.
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 AZA-accredited zoos. Detection methods have improved, and the best course of action is rapidly applied treatment. Several elephant calves have successfully recovered from EEHV infections in recent years.