Pacyderm Pathogen--What is it?

K. Weber kweber at
Tue Mar 24 01:14:41 EST 1998

	A few days ago the news on NPR was that a forty six year old
elephant had died of a pathogen present in nearly half of the elephants in
captivity in the U.S.  Despite my love of free speech, I think the public
can do badly with news like this.
	I have a personal interest as might a few thousand other people
who have been heavily exposed to elephant snot.  If you've never been
close to an elephant, you don't know what a messy business their trunks
are.  The typical zoo visitor in the forties almost certainly would not
have anything to worry about.  There was a sort of zoo visitor in these
years who viewed a trip to the zoo as an oppurtunity to prove their
ability to dress fashionably.  The peanuts with which they fed the
elephants were fed in paper bags which were almost never opened.  Since I
had a close friend who was an elephant, I would at least try to open the
bags.  The oldest boy or sometimes the father were the designated elephant
feeder and they were almost always to afraid of elephants to put their
hand close to the cage to dump the peanuts out of the bag and into the
feeding slot.  
	Elephant feeding was very much a practice differentiated by class.
My father was a competition marksman who spent his Saturdays demonstrating
how many times he could put a bullet through the same hole in a black
piece of paper.  We watched him once in a while but mostly we went off to
the zoo.  My mother thought the idea of paying for elephant food
absolutely absurd.  We were white.  Most of the black mothers also shared
our opinion of paying for peanuts.  We fed our elephant what it would have
been eating in Africa.  I vaguely remember my usual routine with my
particular elephant who lived in a tennis court.  First I would thrust my
arm all the way into the feeding slot and she would play with it and
attempt to convey to me just how much she wanted to have a treat.  She
ended usually by tickling me under the armpit.   Then I run off to a bed
of ivy and pulled on the ivy until it came out of the ground.  I was
almost indefatigueable at this as were a lot of other trashy children who
shouldn't have been at the zoo anyway.
	The question is whether a person who had many such exposures in
the past might have been exposed to this mysterious pathogen.  People with
CFS, which I have usually show exposure to a number of the more virulent
sort of viruses.  We also commonly have chemical or radioactive exposure.
I may hve been exposed to HTLV-1 congenitally.  My father was exposed to
Japanese blood during the evacuation of China in WW II and very probably
to refugee blood which may have been recentlly infected.  I developed CFS
after a six week bout of sore throat which was penicillin resistant in
	So I'm trying to figure out what my question is.  Knowing whether
I showed exposure to this would be interesting because if I don't have it
you probably can't get it that way.  I've also thought of the possibility
that there is a medecine for a mystery pathogen which might take some of
the punch out of this stupid disease.
	I am so glad that I got to know and be friends with a member of a
very intelligent and wonderful specie.  I will be glad when there is
medecine and adequate prevention for all diseases and people can just
relax and be people again.  We need that.  I think that was why Freud was
embraced with such hysteria.  He let people pretend for a while that
everything would always be perfectly okay except for a few people who were
locked up anyway.  Feel free to e-mail me instead of posting.  If you can
answer my questions or want to talk about this.  
	Until she was eleven, my elephant buddy was used to give rides to
children.  According to an older girl I met while riding the miniature
train at our zoo.  This would have been a white middle class activity and
would have exposed the lucky children old enough to remember when our
elephant gave rides.


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