Holy Cow(Rinderpest)!

Back in June of 2011, the United Nations declared that a disease had been eradicated, wiped off the face of the Earth for good. This disease turned out to be Rinderpest. Joining small pox as the only two eradicated diseases at the time, Rinderpest was not as well known. Even though Rinderpest has been around for quite some time, due to it being an epizootic disease, affecting only non-human animals, it was lower on the list of lethal diseases for humans.

Until near its eradication, it was believed that Rinderpest had existed for an extremely long time, dating back to 10,000 B.C. The epidemics that occurred in Egypt and the Roman Empire were also blamed on Rinderpest. Rinderpest is very virulent, infected individuals get runny noses and eyes. Then their digestive systems become inflamed, and finally they die of diarrhea or malnutrition. The strongest strains of Rinderpest had a 95% mortality rate, thus its correlation to many cattle epidemics in the past. In 2010, it was discovered by Japanese geneticists that Rinderpest was actually almost genetically identical to measles until 1000 A.D. This meant that the epidemics before were probably caused by another disease such as Anthrax. Newer theories started to appear for the origins of Rinderpest. Experts now believe that the disease arose from Asia and was spread around by cattle during the Mongol invasions.

There had been many Rinderpest outbreaks throughout the world such as in Brazil in 1920 and Australia in 1923. These outbreaks were contained by the government however. There has also been outbreaks that wiped out millions of cattle and livestock, such as in Africa in 1890 and 1980. Although around 80% of cattle in South Africa were wiped out, by 1990s, most of Africa was free of Rinderpest.

The eradication of Rinderpest took a long time. The World Organization for Animal Health was formed in 1924 to combat Rinderpest. It took many tries to rid of the disease. There were many issues such as farmers not believing in vaccines and the status of cows in India. However, people dressed up as locals to help promote vaccinations and India was very efficient at vaccinating their cattle. By 1970s, it was believed Rinderpest was gone; unfortunately it returned in the 1980s. Again, the world tried again to get rid of the disease, this time with a new type of vaccine that could last longer without refrigeration. The last case of Rinderpest was reported in 2001, and in 2011 the UN declared its eradication.


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