Ringling Bros. elephant dies of herpes

Mike the elephant

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A 2-year-old Asian elephant named Mike died this week at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation.

The death of the center’s youngest elephant from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) happened very quickly, the center said in a release.

“No one knows why the virus manifests this way in some elephants, since most elephants harbor the virus and never become ill,” Director of Veterinary Care Dr. Ashley Settles said. “Mike only began to show the slightest of symptoms on Saturday and was eating and drinking well as late as Sunday afternoon, but the illness progressed very rapidly.

“As soon as symptoms began, we started treating him, but by Monday morning there was nothing more anyone could do to prevent his passing.”

Mike died Monday morning, the center said.

Mike was born at the center on June 27, 2013, one of 26 endangered Asian elephants born there since its founding in 1995.

Both wild and captive elephants die from EEHV. About half the deaths of captive elephants are due to the virus, the center said.

The center is working with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory to develop treatments for infected elephants.

The virus has an 80 percent mortality rate in elephants, the center said.