Packy not responding to TB treatments

Packy is 54, first diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2013

Packy, the oldest and most famous of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo, April 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Packy, the oldest and most famous of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo, April 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Packy, the 54-year-old Asian elephant star at the Oregon Zoo, is not responding and is no longer being treated for tuberculosis.

Oregon Zoo officials said in a release Friday Packy’s latest routine monthly test found active TB, the first positive test since he was initially diagnosed with tuberculosis 3 years ago.

Packy in the pool at Elephant Lands, Fall 2016 © Oregon Zoo / photo by Sara Hottman.
Packy in the pool at Elephant Lands, Fall 2016 © Oregon Zoo / photo by Sara Hottman.

More tests showed Packy’s strain of TB was resistant to 2 types of antibiotics that had been used to treat him.

“Without those options, we’re very limited in our ability to treat this infection,” senior veterinarian Dr. Tim Storms said in a statement. “We’ve stopped Packy’s treatment for the time being, since we now know that it’s been ineffective. We’re consulting with veterinarians and pharmacologists around the country, considering what to do next.”

Packy is one of 3 elephants at the zoo being treated for TB. The others, Rama and Tusko, have had successful treatments. Treating Packy has been tougher, zoo officials said, because he is reluctant to take oral medications and did not tolerate well one of the TB medications.

Storms told public health officials about Packy’s health.

“They’ve been very careful about making sure visitors, volunteers and staff are safe,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, deputy health officer for Multnomah County.

Packy was born at the Oregon Zoo in 1962 and has been a popular member of the zoo family all his life. The famous patriarch of the zoo’s herd has been in a separate enclosure for a while due to the bacterial infection, which can cause weakness, coughing and weight loss.

While zoo officials explore their options, they are keeping Packy active and motivated.

“I think with Packy being as old as he is, we have to look at every day as a blessing,” elephant curator Bob Lee said.

Packy is the oldest male Asian elephant in North America and one of the oldest on Earth.

“I can’t imagine a day where he’s not here,” Lee said. “It’s hard because Packy is a member of our family. Any animals passing here at the zoo, but one as famous as Packy, it’ d be tough to explain it to the kids.”

 

Packy is the oldest male Asian elephant in the U.S. He turned 51 in April 2013. Undated photo. (Oregon Zoo)
Packy is the oldest male Asian elephant in the U.S. He turned 51 in April 2013. Undated photo. (Oregon Zoo)