Global eradication of rinderpest

Today, the world is nearly free from rinderpest. Eliminating rinderpest could be viewed as producing a net annual economic benefit to the African region of at least $1 billion.

rinderpest in cattle Rinderpest (meaning cattle-plague) is a infectious viral disease of cattle, buffalo, yak and numerous wildlife species which has caused devastating effects throughout history. In the 1890's rinderpest destroyed nearly 90 percent of all cattle in sub-Saharan Africa and millions of wild animals. Major rinderpest outbreaks last approximately 5 yearsand result in average of 30% mortalities in a population. This poses a massive risk to millions of small-scale farmers and pastoralists.

Major outbreaks of rinderpest could destroy more than 70 million (or 14 million per year) of the 220 million cattle in Africa, With an estimated value per head of US $120, the cost of such an outbreak would be more than $1 billion per year and a total of $5 billion for the whole outbreak (figures are based on the rinderpest epidemic of 1979-1983 from FAO). Therefore, eliminating rinderpest could be viewed as producing a net annual economic benefit to the African region of at least $1 billion.

rinderpest outbreak statistics Today, the world is nearly free from rinderpest since the only evidence for surviving disease is a small focus in the Somali pastoral ecosystem that encompasses north eastern Kenya, southern Somalia, and some areas of Ethiopia. The goal of complete freedom from rinderpest from the world is within our grasp, and this would mark only the second example of a disease to be eradicated worldwide, after smallpox.

The progress towards eradication through large scale vaccination and surveillance campaigns has been a remarkable triumph for veterinary science. This serves as a powerful example of what can be achieved when the international community and individual country's veterinary services and farming communities, cooperate to develop and implement results-based policies and strategies. The Pan African Rinderpest Eradication Campaign (PARC), and later the Pan African Programme for the Control of Epizootics (PACE), overseen by the African Union with Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) Secretariat hosted at FAO, and the IAEA Technical Co-operation (TC) Programme that transferred technologies for reducing risk from transboundary livestock diseases and those of veterinary public health, with the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of the IAEA providing technical expertise and assistance, are the key coordinating institutions in the battle against rinderpest.

The initial live vaccine developed by Dr. Walter Plowright and colleagues in Kenya with support from the United Kingdom, was based on a virus that was attenuated by successive passages in tissue culture. Dr. Plowright was awarded the World Food Prize by FAO in 1999 for this work. Although this freeze-dried ive vaccine is highly effective and safe, the preparation loses some of its effectiveness when exposed to heat. Further research was directed at developing a more thermostable vaccine preparation for use in remote areas and success was achieved through research in Ethiopia by Dr. Jeffery Mariner supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In parallel, serological (ELISA) and molecular (PCR) diagnostic tools were developed to detect antibodies and identify viruses to monitor the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns and to implement disease surveillance when vaccination was no longer made. Coupled with the necessary sampling and testing strategies developed by FAO and IAEA with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); there has been a controlled and gradual reduction in vaccination and accumulation of surveillance data to allow accreditation of countries through the OIE as free from disease and then from infection along the prescribed pathway.

Although the cost of vaccination, blood sampling and testing have been high for both developing and developed nations, their effectiveness is demonstrated by the fact that there is only one small focus of virus with potential to disease outbreaks still occurring in the world. By contrast, in 1987, the disease was present in 14 African countries as well as in West Asia, the Near and Middle-East. The economic impact of these efforts is already clear and although costs and benefits vary considerably from country to country, the figures for Africa mentioned above illustrate the cost-effectiveness of PARC/PACE and GREP.