Friday, February 26, 2010


A technician from Ethiopia's National Veterinary Institute vaccinates cattle against rinderpest (1987).

Scientific American had an article at the end of last year about the elimination of Rinderpest - Cattle plague: An extinction worth celebrating

In the 1980s, billions of dollars worth of livestock were lost in several major outbreaks in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Flash forward to 1994, when the FAO formed the Global Rinderpest Eradication Program (GREP). Working with government agencies and organizations around the world, GREP charted the geographic distribution of rinderpest, worked to understand the disease better, and took local action to fight it.

Local actions included training veterinarians and farmers to recognize and report the rinderpest, establishing emergency response plans, setting biosecurity protocols, and working with countries to create programs for monitoring and controlling the disease.

The efforts paid off. In the past 15 years, 170 countries and territories have been certified as rinderpest-free by the World Organization for Animal Health, the international certification body for animal diseases. The last major outbreak was in Kenya in 2001, and the disease's final stronghold was in a small, overlapping area of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya that the FAO now says appears to have been cleared.

It now looks like rinderpest has been essentially eliminated but formal declaration of victory is on hold whilst surveillance continues to ensure it is really extinct. An international statement about Global Rinderpest Freedom is expected to be made within the year 2010. This would be the second time that a disease has been eradicated worldwide after smallpox in humans. FAO have a Status report on progress made to date in eradication of rinderpest: highlighting success story and action required till global declaration in 2010 (links to pdf document). I think this document illustrates the difficulty of working on a global scale.

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