On 25 May 2011 the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) made a formal declaration of the global eradication of rinderpest, marking only the second time in history that humanity has wiped out a viral disease. Smallpox (pic above) was wiped out 30 years ago, also thanks to vaccination, in this case of humans, mainly schoolkids. The smallpox vaccine was invented in 1796 by the British physician Edward Jenner and although the same principles had been used years earlier he was the first to publish evidence that it was effective and to provide advice on its production.
We’ve always joked about the rinderpest as in, this or that happened “before the rinderpest” – meaning “long ago”. Now it’s gone. Good riddance. And who do we have to thank? . . .
THANK YOU vaccination.
Rinderpest—which originated in Asia and spread around the world with invaders from Genghis Khan onward—was capable of quickly killing off cattle herds and had caused famines and economic devastation for thousands of years. The virus was wiped out with a campaign of cattle vaccination combined with widespread deployment of a test to quickly identify the disease.
The great Rinderpest epidemic in Southern Africa
In the 1890s, the rinderpest virus struck Africa – “the most devastating epidemic to hit southern Africa in the late nineteenth century”. It killed more than five million cattle south of the Zambezi, as well as domestic oxen, sheep, and goats, and wild populations of buffalo, giraffe and wildebeest. This led to widespread human starvation. The virus is thought to have been introduced into Eritrea in 1887 by Indian cattle brought by the Italians for their campaign against Somalia. It spread throughout the Horn of Africa and then headed south.
In March 1893 it reached Bulawayo. From there the plague was rapidly conveyed southwards by means of transport oxen. The scourge reached Mafeking, some 500 miles south, early in April, and about the same time it crossed the Limpopo into the Transvaal where the cattle population was rapidly decimated. As soon as rinderpest made its appearance at Mafeking every effort was made by the Government of the Cape of Good Hope to confine the infection locally and to prevent its extension further southward. Several herds of cattle were shot; two lines of fences were erected south of the seat of infection; and cordons of mounted police were stationed at various points to prevent movements of cattle from infected areas to parts south of the line. But in spite of the most strenuous precautions, the disease penetrated the barriers, and reached Vryburg in May; Barkly West in September; and Kimberley in October of the same year.
A final determined attempt to check the extension of the scourge further southward was then made at the Orange River. A barbed-wire fence, about a thousand miles long, was erected along the northern boundaries of the Cape Colony, about 1,000 yards south of the Orange River. The fence started near the south-western extremity of Bechuanaland and extended eastwards as far as Basutoland; then along the Cape-Basutoland and Cape-Natal boundaries as far as the coast. Police patrols were stationed all along the line, and any communication between the infected country on the north of the line and the Cape Colony was most carefully supervised. European travelers from the Colony was most carefully supervised. European travelers from the north were admitted only after disinfection of their clothes, and the entrance of natives was practically prohibited. As a result of these precautions the invasion of the Cape was delayed, but on March 1897, an outbreak occurred unexpectedly in the Herschel district, south of the line. After an investigation into the possible source of the infection the following information was obtained: The leader of a span of oxen, traveling on a main road near Aliwal North, south of the line, picked up a sack containing, amongst other things, dried meat and a pair of blood-stained trousers. He put on the trousers, and a few days afterwards the leading oxen showed symptoms of rinderpest. But before a diagnosis was made the infection had already spread to other cattle that had been in contact with the infected span of oxen.
The authorities, realising the impossibility of preventing the spread of the disease by means of the measures so far adopted, resorted to other prophylactic methods. Meanwhile Robert Koch, who had been investigating rinderpest at Kimberley on the invitation of the Cape Government, had confirmed the immunizing properties claimed by cattle farmers for the bile of animals that had died of the disease. Thanks to these farmers, Koch propounded the theory that ‘one germ causes one disease- every disease has its specific germ’ and took the first step in vaccine therapy with his rinderpest inoculation. In February 1897, this method of immunization was adopted all over the country, and before the end of 1898 more than two million head of cattle had been successfully inoculated. At the end of 1898 rinderpest was under control and temporarily disappeared from South Africa, the last reported outbreak occurring on the Transvaal-Bechuanaland border in August, 1899. Koch received the Nobel Prize for his work in 1905.
During this virulent epizootic, rinderpest caused ruin and devastation over extensive stretches of country, destroying not only the majority of domestic bovines along its route, but also considerable numbers of indigenous antelopes. It was estimated that more than two-and-a-half million head of cattle succumbed to it in South Africa alone.
During the military operations in East Africa during the First World War, rinderpest was carried southwards by the movements of infected cattle. In 1917 more than 100,000 head of cattle were immunized with the serum-simultaneous method. Again in 1939 the vaccination of approximately one million head of cattle took place, and a solid block of immune animals was thus created.
Vaccination has been among the most amazing medical boons for mankind.
Vaccinate people, just vaccinate.
thanks wikipedia. More here.