Before the Rinderpest

How do you say “long ago”? ‘When Moses fell off the bus’ – ? ‘Before Noah’s Ark’ – ? ‘Before Pontius was a pilot’ – ? Many use these humorous biblical references.

I’ve mostly said ‘Before the Rinderpest.’ The rinderpest was really big in South Africa in the 1890’s and became a landmark event that many people used as a major ‘before and after’ marker. Cattle literally ‘died like flies’:

. . and now its gone! Rinderpest is the first animal disease to have been eradicated – completely eradicated! Thanks to vaccination. It followed the first eradication of any disease – the human disease smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 – again, thanks to vaccination.

Rinderpest, German for ‘cattle-plague’, was an infectious viral disease of cattle, and in South Africa of buffalo, antelope, giraffes and warthogs. Death rates during outbreaks were usually extremely high, approaching 100% in some populations. Rinderpest was mainly transmitted by direct contact and by drinking contaminated water, although it could also be transmitted by air. A global eradication campaign since the mid-1900s, ended in the last confirmed case of rinderpest being diagnosed in 2001, and in June 2011 the UN announced the global eradication of rinderpest.

So it took one hundred years of calm, relentless, steady and committed vaccinating and now it’s gone. The same happened with smallpox. Sober, science-based plans eliminated a terrible disease. We need to be sure to support the evidence-based medicine that can reduce and even eliminate diseases – vaccination is an amazing and safe way to protect our children. We could soon eliminate Guinea Worm, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, Elephantiasis and River Blindness if we stick to our vaccination targets.

Support vaccination programs – Just Do It. Don’t let charlatans talk nonsense like some scare-mongers did when the first smallpox virus was introduced by Edward Jenner back in 1798. The vaccination would save your life, but this cartoonist said ‘No, It Would Make Cows Pop Out of Your Arms, Bum, Nose and Head’!

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