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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Staffers and patrons of a zoo in New York state are grieving after an elephant calf died from a virus Tuesday, officials said.

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According to Syracuse.com and WSYR-TV, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse announced Wednesday that the nearly 2-year-old Asian elephant, Ajay, died after contracting the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus. In a Facebook post, the zoo said the virus is “the biggest killer of young Asian elephants and can cause death within 24 hours in those under age 8.”

The zoo said staffers and veterinarians from Cornell University began monitoring Ajay after his older brother, Batu, 5, tested positive for the virus last week, according to the post. The older elephant was asymptomatic, officials said.

Ajay also did not show any symptoms until early Tuesday, the post continued.

“On Monday night, he was playful and happy as usual,” read the post. “By Tuesday morning, there was some swelling around his eyes and his tongue was slightly darkened, signs that EEHV is active.”

The zoo’s director, Ted Fox, said in a statement that Ajay died within two hours.

“That is how awful this disease is, especially with young elephants,” he said, according to the Facebook post. “When it hits, it hits hard.”

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