Where has elephant smallpox occurred?
Elephant smallpox occurred for the first time in 1960 in Leipzig Zoo and spread to various countries, primarily in Central Europe, in the following years.
How does the illness spread?
It is very likely that the viral infection is spread by rodents such as mice and rats. The course of the focus of infection is over feed contaminated with mouse droppings and mouse urine.
What are the first symptoms of elephant smallpox?
The illness’s first symptoms are round, slightly raised ulcerous changes to the tongue.
After a week the elephant’s entire body is covered with the typical smallpox-like changes to the skin.
The animal’s general condition gets ever worse and the elephant hardly feels like having anything to eat or drinking any water.
What are the further symptoms?
A little later changes to the elephant’s feet can be observed.
A serous liquid starts to ooze out of the seriously ill animal’s coronary band.
In the following days the horny skin starts to become detached from the footpad and there is a danger of the elephant losing the entire sole of its foot. This means that horny skin on the sole of the foot is shed and that the elephant has to stand on the unprotected tissue lying underneath it.
Can the illness be treated?
The amount of care required for an elephant with smallpox is huge.
Without intensive medical care and uninterrupted being looked after by the elephant keeper, an infected elephant cannot be saved.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics, infusions and specially prepared soft food made of boiled rice and bananas can save an ill elephant, provided it has a good constitution and a little luck, as elephant keepers and veterinarians from Magdeburg in Germany proved in 1990.
What happens with poor care?
Contrast this with the behavior of the owner of a small German circus, who let his elephant die a sad death in November 2000. The color photos show the animal’s feet. The veterinarians, who were informed much too late, could not save the elephant any more and had to put him to sleep.