An end to your rinderpestiferous activities
October 15, 2010 6:07 AM   Subscribe

The UN's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) have announced that they believe rinderpest, an frequently fatal viral disease that affects livestock and wild ruminants, to have been eliminated. This is only the second virus, after smallpox, to have been wiped out. The BBC and the Guardian discuss the story in brief, and Science has a slightly more in-depth look at it. The FAO themselves have put up an interesting history of the disease and its treatment.
posted by Dim Siawns (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Science article appears to be behind a paywall.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:23 AM on October 15, 2010

Apologies, apparently my workplace subscribes to Science and so I was just automatically redirected to the article with no indication that payment was required. The BBC and Guardian links have the gist of the story nevertheless.
posted by Dim Siawns at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2010

This sounds like the first 15 mintues of a running around screaming movie.
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fully aware of the horrors of the virus, and what a great thing it is that it's gone..

But it's another whole species down, and a successful one at that.

And that's something that really gives one pause.
posted by Ahab at 6:38 AM on October 15, 2010

You go ahead and mourn the virus, Ahab. I'm going to go get some peroxide and pour it on the mold in my shower and cackle evilly.

Then I'll go get a flu shot.
posted by JB71 at 6:58 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:05 AM on October 15, 2010

FAO link:
He made recommendations for control that are still valid, these included slaughter to reduce spread; restricted movement of cattle; burial of whole animals in lime and inspection of meat. The penalties for transgressors were drastic; guilty laymen were hung, drawn and quartered and guilty ecclesiastics were sent to the galleys.
Galleys? Or do they mean gallows?
posted by pracowity at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2010

But it's another whole species down, and a successful one at that.

The UK and US governments probably have supplies of it.
posted by pracowity at 7:11 AM on October 15, 2010

I think they mean galleys; sentences of slavery in the Papal galleys for a set period were passed down until the middle of the 18th centure, according to this. If you can be chained to the oars for theological heresy, why not veterinary heresy as well?
posted by Dim Siawns at 7:18 AM on October 15, 2010

The UK and US governments probably have supplies of it.

So relieved.
posted by Ahab at 7:21 AM on October 15, 2010

Yes, by 'wiped out' they mean 'hopefully constrained to the samples held by government labs for experimental weaponization'.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:28 AM on October 15, 2010

Go science!
posted by electroboy at 7:44 AM on October 15, 2010

One thing that's mentioned in the Science article and not in any of the other links is the failed previous large-scale eradication campaign done in 1962, JP15 (in that JP15 link, look for the article titled "The case for a community-based approach with reference to Southern Sudan" to get an overview).

There's a thoughtful section on why JP 15 failed--primarily, they didn't reach the highly isolated areas (which then preserved the vaccine until it erupted again) and the vaccine that they used back then required refrigeration (while today's does not)--and it's clear that PARC (the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign, dating from the '80s) and GREP (the campaign mentioned here) built on those errors.

Nonetheless, given how many times rinderpest has emerged from isolation into widespread virulence (not only 1962 but also 1998), I am wary of the eradication campaign declaring their work complete. Especially since they're also dismantling their disease observation groups. Granted, it's been years since many areas stopped vaccinating and yet they still report no cases (since the mid-90s in a number of countries).

All in all, it is a good thing, as the Science article mentions, that some labs continue to maintain supplies of the vaccine and also that there is talk of working to develop better community veterinarian practices to catch diseases earlier.
posted by librarylis at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2010

Dr. Donald Henderson's Smallpox- the Death of a Disease: The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer touches on the controversy around government stockpiles of smallpox.
posted by djb at 8:14 AM on October 15, 2010

It's not sexy, exciting science, but it's astounding what an impact something as simple as making a more temperature tolerant/stable vaccine can have.
posted by maryr at 9:37 AM on October 15, 2010

Here's some more info from the FAO website: a good overview of history of rinderpest and efforts in recent decades to deal with it once and for all. Plus here's a timeline they created on TimeToast.
posted by Kneebiter at 3:58 AM on October 16, 2010

Galleys? Or do they mean gallows?

They could mean being sent as a convict to row in a naval galley as a slave, or maybe just life imprisonment, depending on the exact time and place.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:09 PM on October 16, 2010

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