January 8, 2010

Cattle Killing Disease Will Be Eradicated By 2011

A worldwide vaccination campaign has finally succeeded in ridding the globe of a disease that has been plaguing cattle for millennia, the world's paramount veterinary agency announced on Thursday.

Rinderpest, or cattle plague, is a disease that can kill off entire herds of cattle and buffalo, resulting in severe economic problems and malnutrition in villages in poor countries, reported AFP.

A rigorous effort to vaccinate animals against the virus that causes the disease is finally bearing fruit, said the leader of the World Organization for Animal Health, known by its French acronym OIE.

"We are very close to wiping out rinderpest around the world," the OIE's director-general, Bernard Vallat, said, noting that this is to cattle what smallpox has been for humans.

"This disease has been a historic curse for humanity. It has been around since the dawn of time," Vallat said.

Nearly half of the OIE's checklist of 175 countries still reported cases of rinderpest in 2000, a number that has dropped to 17 in 2010.

The other countries are already set to be evaluated, with Somalia being the worst case. However, Vallat said that they are optimistic that the OIE will be declaring the disease as completely eradicated at a meeting in 2011.

He said an important question is where virus samples could be stored for research and as a source for vaccines should the disease ever resurface.

"Two or three" high-security reference laboratories are being considered, he said.

Smallpox virus samples are still being held in U.S. and Russian labs, which causes concern for some that they could be stolen or used to make a bioterror weapon.

"Hopefully, it won't be the same for rinderpest," said Vallat.

The virus that causes rinderpest is part of the paramyxoviridae family of viruses.

Though sheep and goats are also susceptible to the virus, they are much less affected by it than cattle. Symptoms among animals are fever, diarrhea and dehydration, often leading to death within 10 to 15 days.


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