Deadly Bovine Disease Ousted

United Nation officials declare rinderpest the first animal disease to be fully eradicated.

Jun 30, 2011
Cristina Luiggi

18th century rinderpest outbreak in the Netherlands.JACOBUS EUSSEN / WIKIPEDIA

This past Tuesday (June 28), zoologists, veterinarians, and public health officials from around the world celebrated the second time in history that a disease has been wiped out from the face of the Earth. Rinderpest, a deadly viral disease that has plagued cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals since antiquity, now joins the ranks of smallpox, which was officially eradicated in 1979.

With the last documented case of rinderpest appearing nearly a decade ago in a wild buffalo in Kenya, the official declaration this week brings to a triumphant end an eradication campaign begun in 1945 with the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the New York Times reports. It was during the FAO’s annual conference in Rome this week that the announcement was made. In his keynote speech, Nobel Laureate Peter C. Doherty expressed his optimism for the eradication of other common scourges, in particular, rinderpest’s closest genetic kin, the measles virus. “As a one-host pathogen of humans, it should also be possible to eliminate measles from the planet,” he said, adding that standing in the way are “the anti-vaccination movements in the advanced countries.”