Rinderpest joins smallpox in history books

For only the second time in human history, a viral disease has been eradicated worldwide. The UN’s Food Animal Organization (FAO) announced last week that it would suspend tracking efforts for Rinderpest because the disease has been eradicated. Rinderpest is possibly the most important veterinary disease in history. This viral disease kills the vast majority of infected cattle. Devastating losses in the 1700s motivated France’s establishment of the world’s first school of veterinary medicine to teach control methods; most European countries quickly followed suit. When Rinderpest entered sub-Saharan Africa in the late 1800s, 80-90% of all cattle died leading to famine and destabilization that left the region “weak in the face of European colonization.” FAO launched the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme in 1994, and the virus was last detected in 2001 in wild buffaloes in Kenya’s Meru National Park. The official declaration of eradication will come from the OIE in 2011.

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