Oklahoma City Zoo officials: Young elephant currently undergoing treatment for deadly virus


Elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Since learning that the youngest Asian elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo tested positive for a deadly virus, zookeepers say they are keeping a close eye on her as she undergoes treatment.

Last week, zoo leaders said 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.”

On Thursday, the zoo said that Achara is taking antiviral medications. Officials say treatments and around the clock monitoring will continue until her virus levels drop.

At this point, her virus level is elevated but her behavior is normal and shows no clinical signs of illness.

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.

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