8th October – EEHV – Explained

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 this week.

What is EEHV?

The disease is caused by a virus called EEHV, or elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. The four deaths in Nandan Kanan Zoo are the first reported cases of EEHV-related deaths in an Indian zoo, state government and Central Zoo Authority (CZA) officials said, while the death in the forest too is the first known such case in the wild in India.

How the virus works

  • An EEHV information website, a resource conceived in 2011 at the the 7th Annual International EEHV Workshop in Houston, describes EEHVs as 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, researchers say.

No true cure yet

  • There is no true cure for herpesviruses in animals or in humans because herpes viruses go latent.
  • Because the disease has a short course, “this means we have to take a very quick call on a suspected EEHV case and kick off treatment protocols.
  • The treatment is a 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).
  • The diagnostic detection of active EEHV infections in Nandan Kanan was carried out at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly.

Why is it a concern?

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.

Way forward –

  • In India, the CZA will set up a national committee of scientists from Guwahati, Kerala, IVRI and Nandan Kanan to develop protocols for the country lest an EEHV outbreak occurs elsewhere in the future.
  • The timeline may be around two months. One of the aims will be to develop a detection centre in Odisha. Currently it can only be done in Guwahati and IVRI.

SourceThe Indian Express

QUESTIONImportant for Preliminary Examination. Also cover the Elephant Reserves in Odisha and neighbouring states. They also formed the part of Kalinga Empire.

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