The United Nations has declared that a long-term, global vaccination campaign has completely eradicated a disease that has killed millions of bovines for millennia. It is the first animal disease to be officially declared eradicated – and only the second disease ever, after smallpox.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has officially stated that the world was free of rinderpest, or cattle plague, but also “called on the world community to follow up by ensuring that samples of rinderpest viruses and vaccines be kept under safe laboratory conditions and that rigorous standards for disease surveillance and reporting be applied.”
The announcement followed verification last month by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that the disease was no longer circulating in its natural habitat. The last outbreak of rinderpest was registered in wild buffalo in Kenya in 2001, and the last vaccination took place in 2006.
“The declaration is the final step in a decades-long global (vaccination) campaign implemented by FAO, in close coordination with the OIE, and other partners to eradicate rinderpest,” the agency said.
The highly infectious disease has killed many millions of cattle, buffalo and other animals, and caused hunger and economic hardship, primarily in Africa, Asia and Europe.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: “We must also focus our attention on measures to be taken to ensure that this result is sustainable and benefits future generations. To do this, a post-eradication strategy (including on-going vaccinations) should be put in place to prevent any recurrence of the disease.”
Rinderpest is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of wild and domestic split-hoofed animals, notably cattle and buffalo. Many species, including sheep and goats, can show milder clinical signs of the disease when infected, but the mortality rate can reach up to 100 percent in highly susceptible cattle or buffalo herds.
The global eradication of smallpox was certified by a commission of eminent scientists in December 1979 and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Organization in 1980.
Source: UN News Center