ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The ABQ BioPark reports that the zoo’s eight-year-old elephant Jazmine has now tested positive for Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). Jazmine’s brother Thorn died on Christmas Day as a result of the disease.
The BioPark states that Jazmine’s blood was frequently tested after Thorn received a positive test on December 15 with the virus being detected in her blood on December 28. According to the BioPark, animal care staff immediately started treating the disease with antiviral medication as well as plasma transfusions.
“We have had zoos from around the country reach out to us and offer their support. We have had whole blood and plasma come from other zoos from their elephants that have been cross-matched with our facilities elephants,” said Stephanie Stowell, Director of the Albuquerque BioPark.
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Zoo officials do not yet know how the virus is transmitted or if Jazmine and Thorn are carrying the same strain of the virus. The ABQ BioPark reports that individual elephants react differently to EEHV and states that it is too early to determine how it will impact Jazmine who is older than Thorn and has a more developed immune system than he did.
Officials say that Jazmine didn’t test positive for EEHV when it resulted in the death of her sister Daizy back in 2015. Elephants both in the wild and in human care can get EEHV and zoo officials report that all elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state throughout their entire lives.
“We do not know what brings it out of its latency and we do not know how it is transmitted from one animal to the other in fact right this minute we do not know if Jasmine has the exact same strain as Thorn had,” Stowell said.
Scientists have identified several strains of the virus however, it isn’t known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency. Elephants between the ages of 18 months to eight years old are the most at risk of EEHV.
The ABQ BioPark states that it is currently receiving support from veterinary consultants from other accredited zoos and from the National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo located in Washington, D.C.
The community is hoping for Jasmine’s recovery. “Well I think it was really tragic that Thorn died from it and I have the utmost confidence in the fact that the people here at the zoo are taking good care of all the animals as well as Jazmine,” said lifelong BioPark lover, Florence Thompson.