Since the middle of August, a rare disease has killed five elephants in Odisha. Four calves between the ages of six and 10 have died in Nandan Kanan Zoo in Bhubaneswar, followed by the fifth elephant that died in Chandaka forest.

The disease is caused by a virus called EEHV, or elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.

How the virus works
EEHV is a type of herpesvirus that can cause a highly fatal haemorrhagic disease in young Asian elephants. Most elephants carry just as most humans carry a cold virus. When EEHV is triggered, the elephant dies of massive internal bleeding and symptoms which are hardly visible. Some elephants show symptoms such as reduced appetite, nasal discharge and swollen glands.

The disease is usually fatal, with a short course of 28-35 hours.

No true cure yet
There is no true cure for herpesviruses in animals or in humans. Moreover, disease has a very short course. However, infected elephants are given combination of anti-viral therapy, aggressive fluid therapy (to counter haemorrhaging), immuno-stimulant drugs (selenium and Vitamins C, E), anti-pyretics and analgesics (to bring down fever).

EEHV is lethal for young elephants between the ages of one and 12. If a young elephant dies before reproducing, it affects the population of the species as a whole in the concerned geography.

Source: The India Express