Oregon Zoo staff infected by TB after exposure to elephants

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that seven staff of this Portland-based zoo tested positive for tuberculosis after the 2013 outbreak among three elephants – Packy, Rama and Tusko.

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Dr. Jennifer Vines, deputy health officer for Multnomah County, stated that none of them were infectious and the public is not at risk of developing any cases of this disease.

Some more knowledge about the transmission of tuberculosis was acknowledged in this report. As reported, this is just one of several respiratory diseases which can easily spread from poultry, pets and wildlife to humans.

Approximately 5% of the Asian pachyderms in North America are TB infected, which can sometimes bring them to dead. Statistics from the CDC shown that from 1994 to 1996, in Illinois state, three elephants, who were at exotic animal farm, died from this kind of diseases.

The first case of this disease in Oregon Zoo were diagnosed in May 2013, when an elephant called Rama tested positive. At that time the animals in this Portland-based zoo were checked annually for tuberculosis by testing their secretions. After Rama, Packy and Tusko tested positive in December 2013 and June 2014 respectively.

These three elephants, afterwards, were put on a months-long treatment and safety measures were enacted immediately. Staff who had close contact with elephants are provided with protective masks while the pressure washers were used in order to disinfect the areas. More importantly, the three infected pachyderms were kept more than 100 feet away from human, according to Bob Lee, the zoo’s elephant curator.

Packy, after 18-month long treatment, will be re-introduced to the herd. However, the other two elephants were euthanized. Tusko had mobility troubles caused by its decades-old foot injury while Rama was put into sleep for its old leg injury. Euthanasia was carried out not due to TB infection but because of their pain.

What’s more, an investigation was carried out to identify any cases happened in human. Zoo staff, volunteers and any other people who had had close contact with these 3 elephants were said to be at risk of infecting the disease. Only seven of them tested positive. Consequently, they had chest radiographs and offered free medication to protect against getting sick.

This 2013 outbreak entails increased TB testing. Now, any staff who have close contact with elephant are tested more than once a year, exceeding the standard for zoo staff across the country. The last 6 elephants of Oregon Zoo are also tested frequently. The males are checked once a month while the females are given TB test once a quarter.

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