Asian elephant at Oregon Zoo has tuberculosis

By

Published:

 

Rama, a 30-year-old Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo, has tested positive for tuberculosis, zoo officials said Saturday.

The positive test turned up during an annual lab test, said Hova Najarian, spokesman for the zoo.

Rama has no apparent symptoms. Mitch Finnegan, the zoo's lead veterinarian, said that catching the disease early helps treatment.

"TB is typically a very manageable disease," Finnegan said. "Rama has shown no signs of illness and we're hopeful that with the proper treatment, he never will."

Finnegan said Rama's prognosis is good. Zoo staff will monitor his progress through trunk cultures and blood tests.

No other elephant in the herd has tested positive for TB, but the zoo plans to retest them and monitor them closely. It will also test staff that have worked closely with Rama for the disease.

TB is not common in elephants but cases have been documented since 1875. Other North American zoos have successfully treated the creatures with the disease, caused by slow-growing bacteria that are transmitted through the air.

Rama poses no threat to zoo visitors, said Dr. Justin Denny, public health officer for Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

"Transmission of this disease requires prolonged periods of close contact," Denny said in a statement.

The Oregon Zoo has suspended behind-the-scenes tours in the elephant area. Staff will wear face masks when working in the area, and Rama will be kept separate from the herd during his treatment.