For the Second Time in History, Humans Have Exterminated a Virus

Rinderpest is a virus that kills cattle. Scientists believe that, except for samples in controlled laboratory conditions, they have wiped it out of existence. If true, this will be the second time in human history that a virus has been destroyed. The first was smallpox. BBC News reports:

The eradication of the virus has been described as the biggest achievement in veterinary history and one which will save the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people in the world.[...]

Rinderpest is one of the most lethal cattle diseases known to science. Typically, seven out of 10 cattle infected with the disease would die. But in the 1960s, veterinary scientist Walter Plowright developed a workable vaccine, allowing the disease to be brought under control.

But to begin with there was little to no co-ordination. Individual countries and groups of countries would attempt to vaccinate cattle, suppressing the disease for a while. But it would then re-appear.

Progress was only made once large unified projects were established to tackle the disease.


Link via reddit | Photo by Flickr user gbaku used under Creative Commons license

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While I'm glad the virus appears to be wiped out, how have they proven that it's a bovine-specific agent and how do they know that Laos is actually free of it? They seemed pretty thorough in testing, but given that the disease was originally seen in water buffalo and Laos has many of those, I would hope that they confirm eradication there soon. The original strain found in the water buffalo was pretty self-limiting (90%+ mortality) but the other ones seem less virulent and possibly less harmful.

I dunno. Just the thoughts of someone studying virology. I'm sure they have this all figured out.
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