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Define Rinderpest

  • Rinderpest is known to be the first animal disease that was eradicated globally. Because it was such a scourge, and its re-emergence is still a possibility, it is critical to keep up with current information. Rinderpest was a viral disease that caused fever, erosive stomatitis, diarrhoea, and high morbidity and mortality in cattle and other ruminants (domestic and wild). In the post-eradication era, testing for rinderpest, preferably using molecular methods, should be considered when an etiologic agent for an infectious disease with rinderpest-like symptoms is not purposeful.

  • The other name for rinderpest is cattle plague, is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects animals with cloven hooves (mainly cattle and buffalo). The classic form of rinderpest is one of the deadliest cattle diseases, and it can be disastrous in inexperienced herds.

  • It used to have terrible consequences for food security and livelihoods, especially in developing countries where rinderpest caused famines and devastating economic losses.

Rinderpest History

  • Rinderpest is a centuries-old disease whose symptoms were recognised long before it was given its current name. The virus could have been the source of human measles when humans first domesticated cattle more than 10,000 years ago. According to historical accounts, rinderpest originated in the Central Eurasia steppes before spreading to Europe and Asia via military campaigns and livestock imports. Parts of Africa were devastated by the disease in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rinderpest made a brief appearance in the Americas and Australia with imported animals, but it was quickly eradicated.

  • Rinderpest has been known since the beginning of livestock domestication and is thought to have originated in Central Eurasia before spreading to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia via trade and migration routes. Rinderpest caused widespread famines in Africa and stymied agricultural development in Asia.

  • After decades of internationally coordinated efforts to eradicate the disease, the OIE and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) officially declared rinderpest eradicated from the planet in the year 2011, making it the first and only animal disease to have been eradicated.

Causes of Rinderpest 

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Rinderpest was caused by a paramyxovirus (genus Morbillivirus), which is closely related to the viruses that cause measles in humans and viral distemper in dogs. The virus was spread through close direct or indirect contact. An infected animal developed fever and loss of appetite after a three to nine-day incubation period. These symptoms were quickly followed by discharges from the eyes and nose, salivation, mouth ulcers, and an unpleasant, fetid odour.

As the virus spread through the animal's internal organs, it displayed laboured breathing, dehydration, diarrhoea, often with abdominal pain, and eventually marked straining to evacuate. A skin eruption (streptothricosis) developed on the back and flanks in many cases. Prostration, coma, and death occurred 6 to 12 days after the initial symptoms. Dehydration was the true cause of death.

Impact of Rinderpest on History

Rinderpest epidemics and the resulting losses preceded the fall of the Roman Empire, Charlemagne's conquest of Christian Europe, the French Revolution, and Russia's impoverishment. When rinderpest was introduced into Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, it caused widespread famines and paved the way for African colonisation. In the 1940s, it became clear in China that significant agricultural development would be impossible while the rinderpest remained unchecked. The disease's subsequent global control contributed to the Green Revolution in agricultural production.

Rinderpest in Humans

Rinderpest does not infect humans, but its impact on cattle and other animals has had a significant impact on human livelihoods and food security due to its ability to wipe out entire herds of cattle in a matter of a few days.

Rinderpest Disease in Animals

The other name for rinderpest is cattle plague, is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects animals with cloven hooves (mainly cattle and buffalo). The classic form of rinderpest is one of the deadliest cattle diseases, and it can be disastrous in inexperienced herds. Animals at risk include swine, giraffes, and kudus. Rinderpest is caused by a morbillivirus, which is also responsible for human measles, canine distemper, and peste des petits ruminants. Affected animals have a high fever, depression, nasal/ocular discharges, mouth as well as digestive tract erosions, and diarrhoea. The animals quickly become dehydrated and emaciated, dying about a week after showing symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms of Rinderpest Disease in Cattle

Symptoms of rinderpest include:

  • grain-like bumps in the nostrils, inside the lips, and on the cheeks that frequently develop into ulcers watery mucus discharge from the eyes and nostrils, occasionally with blood.

  • rapid respiration

  • Cow milk production has been reduced.

  • Appetite loss

  •  fever

In the early stages of rinderpest, cattle may become constipated.

In the later stages, diarrhoea is common, and the dung has a foul odour and is frequently tinged with blood. Rinderpest spreads rapidly within a herd, and animals typically die 6 to 10 days after symptoms appear.

Rinderpest is typically transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or its bodily fluids.

The disease can also be spread by contaminated equipment and clothing, as well as over short distances by infected animals' breath.


Vaccine for Rinderpest 

Walter Plowright, who was a famous English veterinary scientist, developed an inactivated vaccine – a tissue culture rinderpest vaccine, or TCRV – in 1960 that induced lifelong immunity without major side effects or the risk of further transmission and could be manufactured at a low cost.

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FAQs on Rinderpest

Question 1. How to Control Rinderpest?

Answer. Maternal immunity to rinderpest lasted 6–11 months, whereas active immunity lasted a lifetime. In endemic areas, an attenuated cell culture vaccine was used to immunise all cattle and domestic buffalo over the age of one year. In these areas, outbreaks were controlled through quarantine, "ring vaccination," and, in some cases, slaughter. During epidemics, disease was best eradicated by imposing quarantine and slaughtering affected and exposed animals. Controlling animal movements was critical to rinderpest control; many outbreaks were caused by the introduction of infected cattle into previously uninfected herds.The lessons learned from this enormous success will be critical in the fight against peste des petits ruminants.

Question 2. Who Cured Rinderpest?

Answer. The Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency launched the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme in 1994. By the late 1990s, this programme had been successful in reducing rinderpest outbreaks to a few and far between.