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Joy the elephant calf overcomes deadly virus at Houston Zoo

Joy had a virus that in its most severe form can cause fatal bleeding in less than five days after it is first discovered.

HOUSTON — Joy, a nearly 2-year-old Asian elephant calf at the Houston Zoo, recently completed successful treatment for a deadly virus.

The zoo says treatment began April 4 when Joy’s caregivers found that her blood work showed the active elephantendotheliotropic herpesvirus, also known as EEHV. The virus can cause severe disease in young elephants, and in its most severe form can cause fatal bleeding in just one to five days after signs of the illness.

Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo
Joy, a nearly 2-year-old Asian elephant calf at the Houston Zoo, recently completed successful treatment for a deadly virus.

Joy received round-the-clock care from April 4-12 from the keepers and the zoo’s veterinary medical team, the zoo stated in a press release. Her intensive treatment protocol included antiviral medications, blood and plasma transfusions, and other supportive therapies.

Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo
Now that her health is on the rise and her treatment is completed, Joy and her mother Shanti have rejoined the elephant herd. Guests can see her daily

The Houston Zoo also received support from doctors at the Baylor College of Medicine, with whom the zoo has a long-term relationship, as well as the local and elephant community at-large.

Now that her health is on the rise and her treatment is completed, Joy and her mother Shanti have rejoined the elephant herd. Guests can see her daily at the McNair Elephant Habitat at the Houston Zoo.

“While we are confident that the treatment protocol our incredible team enacted worked, Joy’s immune system will be vulnerable for the next couple of weeks; we’ll continue to monitor her and the rest of the herd closely,” said Dr. Christine Molter, Houston Zoo veterinarian. “At this time, Joy is improving and the virus level in her blood has decreased.”

Even after Joy makes a full recovery, she will be monitored routinely for signs of other EEHV strains.

EEHV is a herpesvirus that is naturally carried by both Asian and African elephants. Herpesviruses are common in all mammal species, including humans.

According to the Houston Zoo, all of its elephants are screened routinely for EEHV. Currently, no other elephants have shown signs of illness.

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