Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo





Scientists discover and describe nodules (tissue masses) in the lungs of an African elephant in South Africa. We now know that these nodules were indicative of elephant herpesviruses (EEHV).


An Asian elephant at a North American zoo died of what was later confirmed to be EEHV, making this the first known case. Scientists didn’t know at the time what was wrong with the elephant, but scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo diagnosed the case retrospectively years later, using preserved tissue samples


The first report of a captive Asian elephant dying of EEHV (which was still not known by that name), though the case is not well described. The case was detected in a circus elephant in Switzerland.


Kumari, an Asian elephant calf born at the National Zoo, dies suddenly. Through diagnosing and treating her, scientists at the National Zoo, including veterinary pathologist resident Laura Richman, discovered EEHV. This makes Kumari’s case of EEHV the earliest documented.


A 16-month-old Asian elephant calf at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, survives an acute attack of EEHV after being treated with famciclovir, an anti-viral drug used to treat herpes in other animals, including humans. A joint team of veterinarians from Dickerson Park Zoo, Missouri State University, the National Zoo, and the University of Florida successfully treated the elephant after the National Zoo confirms the diagnosis.


A 21-month-old Asian elephant calf in Florida becomes the second elephant with EEHV treated successfully with famciclovir, also confirmed through the Zoo.


Richman and Hayward, along with other authors, publish the first detailed description of EEHV in the journal Science.

This same year, scientists at the National Zoo and Johns Hopkins develop a fast, sensitive and specific blood test for two common strains of EEHV.


Scientists at National Zoo and Johns Hopkins detect a strain of EEHV in the skin nodules of healthy wild-born African elephant calves living in Florida.


Scientists at National Zoo and Johns Hopkins develop a blood test to detect EEHV antibodies for the strain of EEHV that most commonly kills Asian elephants.


The first annual international meeting about EEHV is held in Houston.


Two scientists (Reid and Hildenbrandt) from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, first report EEHV in Asia in a wild-caught Asian elephant living in a Cambodian sanctuary.


Scientists at the National Zoo and Johns Hopkins diagnose EEHV3 as the cause of death of a young Asian elephant at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, and EEHV4 as the cause of death of a young Asian circus elephant. They also discover the presence of a new strain of EEHV (EEHV5) in an otherwise healthy, elderly Asian elephant.


Researchers at the National Zoo and Johns Hopkins scientists help set up a lab in India to test for, study and diagnose EEHV.

Scientists from the National Zoo and Johns Hopkins and James Wellehan from the University of Florida independently discover non-pathogenic strains of a close relative of EEHV in captive elephants.


Scientists from the National Zoo and Johns Hopkins discover EEHV6 in a young captive-born African elephant.

Baylor Medical College teams up with the Houston Zoo to study the elephant herpes virus. The project aims to grow the virus in cell culture, monitor the elephants at the zoo for active infection using PCR technology, test the effectiveness of anti-viral drugs as potential treatment for the virus, solve the mystery of how the virus is spread and develop an effective vaccine for the virus.


Johns Hopkins scientists discover evidence of EEHV7, along with EEHV1,3,6  in a euthanized African elephant in a U.S. zoo.

The Baylor University scientists along with National Zoo and Johns Hopkins scientists develop a quantitative real-time test for the most commonly fatal strain of EEHV.

Scientists from these institutions also demonstrate, for the first time, that healthy Asian herdmates periodically shed EEHV and can carry the same strain that was lethal to a calf.


Posted April 2011