Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Deadly Herpes Outbreak

In elephants.

The New York Times has a story about a sick pachyderm at the St. Louis Zoo. The 2-year old animal presented with a limp, lack of appetite and other symptoms of a virus common among Asian elephants
Her head became swollen at the jaw and forehead, and her tongue, normally bubble-gum pink, became pale and speckled by an intricate pattern of red bruises. Results from the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington soon revealed that Jade was fighting a previously unknown strain of the virus.
Herpes is apparently enough of a problem in North American elephants to warrant a National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab! The virus, which causes fatal haemorrhagic disease, has killed around 20% of elephants born in North American zoos since 2000 and 24 elephants since 1983. Six animals have survived after treatment with human anti-herpes drugs.

It's unclear how the virus is spread or whether, like some human herpesviruses, it can lie dormant only to re-emerge at a later time.


The Key Question said...

Shouldn't it be pretty clear now the virus spreads? I thought that zoo animals are on video surveillance 24/7.