Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus – a Killer Virus

killer virus

Nong Ton Khao Luk Chang, who died of EEHP

RIP Nong Ton Khao Luk Chang. At just 1 yr 6months, this youngster died after contracting elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a deadly virus that affects elephants up to 10 years of age and from which recovery is rare unless rapid and intensive care can be provided.

Young elephants suffering from EEHV often die within 24 hours of showing clinical signs of illness. Unfortunately, by the time the virus has caused enough internal damage for illness to be perceptible, the damage if often irreversible, even with treatment.  However, research has shown that elephants with EEHV can be viremic (showing the presence of virus in the blood) up to two weeks prior to the onset of clinical signs, so if young elephants could have their blood tested on a regular basis it should be possible pick to up early signs. But in practice this is difficult to achieve.

EEHV attacks the internal organs of elephants, particularly the heart and liver, with devastating effect. In spite of many studies (for example, this one in Nature in 2020) there is still no vaccination available for EEHV. Given that a female elephant gives birth to only two or three babies in her lifetime, this virus is a serious threat to Asian elephants – already an endangered species.

At STEF we are doing everything we can to help young elephants like Nong Ton Khao Luk Chang. Our sister charity (STEF Thailand) recently raised enough money from donations in Thailand to buy a diagnostics machine to detect the virus, but now we need anti-viral drugs to treat it, and these are expensive. We also need to provide vitamin C to boost the immune systems of young elephants, and we need to take regular blood tests to check for any early signs of the virus. There is much to do, but with your help we can save these vulnerable elephants. Please consider becoming one of our special “Medicine Angels” and donate regularly, or simply use the donate button below. Thank you.

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