Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rinderpest @ number 2

The eradication of smallpox (certified by the WHO in 1979) led to a period of optimism that other diseases would be soon vanquished. I don't think anyone expected that it would be over three decades before another disease fell - Rinderpest declared extinct by the WHO in 2011.

A number of newspapers had nice articles describing both the historical importance of Rinderpest and also the eradication program.

The New York Times made the point that with the disease is relatively unknown in America because with the exception of a brief, contained outbreak in Brazil in 1920, it never reached the Americas. (Rinderpest, Scourge of Cattle, Is Vanquished.)

The Washington Post explains that three things made rinderpest eradicable. Animals that survived infection became immune for life. A vaccine developed in the 1960s by Walter Plowright, an English scientist who died last year at 86, provided equally good immunity. And even though the virus could infect wild animals, it did not have a reservoir of host animals capable of carrying it for prolonged periods without becoming ill. (Rinderpest, or ‘cattle plague,’ becomes only second disease to be eradicated.)

No comments: