Cattle Plague; Declared to be Eradicated by the World Organization for Animal Health

William Fullmer DVM By William Fullmer DVM, 17th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Farm Animals

Cattle plague has been eradicated form the earth. The second of only two diseases to in history to receive that declaration.

Cattle Plauge; Understanding the Disease

Cattle plague, also known as Rinderpest has been declared to be eradicated by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)1, with the last confirmed case in Kenya in 2001. The significance of this achievement shouldn’t be underestimated for three reasons.

The first is the fact that it is the only animal disease, and the second viral disease, to be erased from the earth. Smallpox is a human viral disease, and the only other infection to be confirmed to be eradicated.

The second is that Rinderpest is a very old disease that has caused incalculable human and animal suffering for centuries. Rinderpest is closely related to human measles and canine distemper3. In fact “The measles virus evolved from the then-widespread Rinderpest virus most probably between the 11th and 12th centuries”3. It may have originated in Asia eventually making its way around the world through the transport of cattle. Rinderpest not only affects cattle, but can also infect other cloven hooved domesticated animals, such as sheep and goats as well as wildlife. The virus is highly contagious and can be spread by direct contact, but also by drinking contaminated water and by air3. In addition to being decidedly contagious, it has a high fatality rate causing nearly 100% deaths in herds of cattle that have no immunity. Because of its high fatality rate it has wiped out entire populations of cattle causing mass human starvation in affected nations.

The third is because of its devastating effect on food animals and subsequently the economies and lives of those that depend on those animals. Rinderpest has been studied extensively as a potential bio-terrorism agent. Fortunately, with the eradication of the virus access will be limited and hopefully out of the hands of terrorists.

Eradication was accomplished primarily due to an aggressive vaccination program led mainly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations2. Eradication would not have been possible without exceptional cross border corporation between nations, refreshing in light of the distrust that sometimes exists between countries. Work to develop a vaccine has been underway since the 1700’s when a serious outbreak in the Netherlands prompted scientists to begin work on the disease in earnest. Dr. Walter Plowwright was awarded the world food prize in 1999 for developing the most recent and effective vaccine against Rinderpest3.

What a remarkable accomplishment to eliminate this source of so much suffering throughout the ages. It was made possible through the efforts of various countries, organizations, and individuals. It is proof of the great good that can come to pass if we will put aside differences, and focus our resources and efforts for something beyond ourselves.





Cattle, Cattle Plauge, Cattle Plauge Eradicated, Measles, Measles Virus, Rinderpest, World Organization For Animal Health

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author avatar William Fullmer DVM
Dr. Fullmer graduated from Washington State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. He also graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Sciences and f

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author avatar Tony Barnes
17th Oct 2011 (#)

Sure would love to see that headline for breast cancer...or for that matter...all cancer.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
17th Oct 2011 (#)

In terms of human life Tony, eradicating disease in livestock animals is very important too.

Amazed it could be declared over when a case was so recent.

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author avatar Tony Barnes
17th Oct 2011 (#)

You are very right Mark.

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