Skip Navigation

Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus

Author(s): Paul D. Ling, Ph.D.

Types of Herpesviruses

Herpesviruses are ubiquitious in nature. Once an animal is infected, these viruses establish long-term chronic infections during the remaining lifespan of that animal.

Latency: Some EEHV virus particles hide in nervous system, others in immune cells in the blood.

Herpesviruses can cause a variety of diseases, including cancer. All herpesviruses are nuclear-replicating—the viral DNA is transcribed to mRNA within the infected cell's nucleus. Herpesviruses co-evolved with species.

What type of herpesvirus infect humans? There are at least eight herpesvirus types that infect humans. Recognizable diseases resulting from these infections include chicken pox, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2.

Different strains of EEHV strike African elephants and Asians elephants. Most African elephants do not die, while specific strains of EEHV can kill juvenile Asian elephants.

Most normal healthy adult elephants have been infected. Young juveniles between ages of 2-7 are most susceptible.

We don’t yet know why some animals get sick and others don’t.

Related Content

  • Invisible Threats

    Invisible Threats Teacher Guide

    How can we protect ourselves and animals from infectious diseases? Students explore the U.S. polio epidemic, investigate different diseases and vaccinations used to fight them, the concept of herd immunity, EEHV that can kill baby Asian elephants, and the link between climate change and disease. (8 activities)

  • Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus (EEHV)

    Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus (EEHV) Video

    Paul D. Ling, Ph.D., a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, is a leading global expert on Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), a disease that is killing baby Asian elephants. Join him as he discusses the virus, key discoveries, and a treatment protocol developed by his research team which keeps the elephants alive.

  • The Index Elephant

    The Index Elephant Reading

    In this storybook, young students track a mysterious illness that is killing baby elephants. They learn how doctors and scientists identified the pathogen, found a treatment and are working to make a vaccine.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Development of the Science of Infectious Diseases teaching materials and video resources was supported in part by funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, grant numbers R25AI084826 and 4R25AI097453.