Samson the elephant improves, is taken off meds

The young male elephant that fell ill with a deadly virus at the Maryland Zoo has been taken off medication and is expected to make a full recovery, zoo officials said Wednesday.

"We know from other elephant experts that he will have up and down days, as one might expect from any patient recovering from a potentially fatal disease," said Mike McClure, the zoo's general curator, in a statement. "But we are very optimistic that he will recover fully in the long term."

Samson, who just recently turned 5 years old, first showed signs of the virus, known as elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus, on Feb. 26, appearing lethargic, officials said.

He was immediately placed on a drug regimen of three doses per day. That was later cut to twice a day, and Samson took his last dose of medication on Tuesday, zoo officials said.

In coming weeks, zoo visitors will be able to see Samson, likely in the back yard of the elephant enclosure near a barn where zoologists can keep a close eye on him as he continues to build his strength, officials said.

"We hope to have him out in the main elephant yard in few weeks when the weather warms up and guests will have a chance to see him playing with a variety of new toys that we are currently installing," McClure said in the statement.

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