NewsLocal News / May 16, 2019

Indianapolis Zoo Elephant's Health Improving With Antiviral Treatment

The Indianapolis Zoo says the prognosis for male Africa elephant Kedar improves each day. - Carla Knapp/Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo says the prognosis for male Africa elephant Kedar improves each day.

Carla Knapp/Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo says the condition of an elephant being treated for a potentially deadly virus is improving.

Kedar, a 13-year-old male African elephant, tested positive for Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus, EEHV, on May 6. The same virus killed two other elephants in March, but Zoo President Dr. Rob Shumaker says Kedar’s prognosis is good.    

“As of today, even just this morning, all of his blood values are either normal, or very very near normal,” Shumaker says. “The level of EEHV in his bloodstream has dropped not to zero yet, but almost.”

Because the virus was noticed early, the zoo says there’s no reason to believe Kedar will suffer long-term damage.

The zoo's veterinary staff is administering anti-viral treatments and is checking all elephants daily at this time. According to Shumaker, they are as prepared as they can be.

EEHV has no known prevention and is one of the deadliest viral infections affecting elephants in the wild, in sanctuaries and in zoos. Once symptoms appear, it’s unusual for the elephant to survive.

Shumaker says discovering the cause is crucial and everyone is searching for the answer. Prior to this case, EEHV was not known to be an issue in African elephants, so now everyone in the profession is paying attention.

“There’s a little bit of silver lining out of all of this,” Shumaker says. “We hope the lives of other African elephants will be spared because of this aggressive testing that’s going on.”

If Kadar or any other elephants contract EEHV, Shumaker says the zoo has a solid basis to know how to treat it again in the future.

Experts say humans and other animal species cannot contract the EEHV.

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