Ascension Via Christi becomes partner in elephant’s care

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Sedgwick County Zoo’s 12-year-old elephant, Zuberi, is infection free today, in part thanks to Ascension Via Christi’s St. Francis laboratory, which separated plasma from blood for Zuberi’s transfusion treatments.

The Sedgwick County Zoo’s 12-year-old African elephant, Zuberi, is now considered recovered from a potentially deadly virus that mostly affects elephants under 15 years old – and local health system Ascension Via Christi played a role in her recovery.

Zuberi had been receiving anti-viral medication and other treatments to fight EEHV – elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. Zoo officials, who posted regular updates on their Facebook page beginning in June, said EEHV is a hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal in severe cases. It is one of the deadliest viruses for elephants worldwide, both in the wild and in human care and there is no vaccine for it.

Zuberi’s round-the-clock treatment included anti-viral medications, rectal fluids, and daily blood counts to monitor her progress, zoo officials said. But Zuberi needed blood and plasma transfusions as well.

“Because we don’t have the centrifuge necessary to separate plasma from the blood, our human health care partners at Ascension Via Christi so graciously offered their services to us,” zoo officials wrote on Facebook. The blood donations went to the lab at St. Francis, which separated the blood and returned it to the zoo in a few hours.

On June 24, after two weeks of treatment, zoo officials declared Zuberi to be recovered from EEHV. The rest of the herd has continued to test negative for any EEHV infections.