How to Wipe Out a Disease

Smallpox was the first disease to be declared completely eradicated. Last year, we told you that rinderpest, a scourge of cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals, became the second disease completely wiped from the earth by human intervention. Now you can read the story of how it was done.
The long but little-known campaign to conquer rinderpest is a tribute to the skill and bravery of “big animal” veterinarians, who fought the disease in remote and sometimes war-torn areas — across arid stretches of Africa bigger than Europe, in the Arabian desert and on the Mongolian steppes.

“The role of veterinarians in protecting society is underappreciated,” said Dr. Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at whose headquarters Tuesday’s ceremony is being held. “We do more than just take care of fleas, bathe mascots and vaccinate Pooch.”

The victory is also proof that the conquest of smallpox was not just an unrepeatable fluke, a golden medical moment that will never be seen again. Since it was declared eradicated in 1980, several other diseases — like polio, Guinea worm, river blindness, elephantiasis, measles and iodine deficiency — have frustrated intensive, costly efforts to do the same to them. The eradication of rinderpest shows what can be done when field commanders combine scientific advances and new tactics.

The New York Times has the saga of rinderpest, from its effects on ancient civilizations to the successful (but long) eradication process. Link -via reddit

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Over at TakePart, we're doing a series on pandemics and viruses and we just published an exclusive with Virus Hunter Anne Rimoin.
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