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Zoo officials: Deadly virus detected in young elephant at Oklahoma City Zoo

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Elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo

OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials at the Oklahoma City Zoo say a deadly virus has been detected in the youngest Asian elephant at the facility.

Zoo leaders say routine testing showed that 21-month-old Achara, an Asian elephant, tested positive for endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), 1A strain.

Officials say all elephants are believed to carry strains of the virus, adding that this isn’t the first time Achara has tested positive for EEHV.

However, this is the first time this particular strain has been detected.

Zoo officials say that although low levels of the virus were detected, the animal care team is starting anti-viral treatment and will be monitoring her.

“We are grateful for the advances in veterinary medicine and research related to EEHV that have enabled us to detect this disease early on in Achara,” said Barry Downer, OKC Zoo deputy director. “We are following a daily treatment protocol that has been successful in other elephants. Because there is no cure for EEHV, it just goes dormant, we will be vigilantly monitoring her health, as we will the rest of the herd.”

The animal care team conducts weekly tests on the elephant herd to monitor for signs of the disease, which can be fatal.

Achara’s half-sister, Malee, died at the age of four due to infection of EEHV1A, the most common strain in elephants across North America, Europe and in Asia including wild populations.

This strain was similar to the one that caused illness in Chandra, Malee’s and Achara’s aunt, when she was a calf. Chandra survived the illness, however, and has remained healthy since that time.

On Tuesday, the zoo announced that they’ve ordered a device called a PCR Machine.

It is designed to quickly and accurately detect viruses in animals, giving zoo vets a head start for treatment even before symptoms appear.