Deadly Cow Disease Close to Extinction

The fatal cow plague, rinderpest, is close to being eliminated in the wild. “The disease has affected Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries and has caused widespread famine and decimated millions of animals, both domestic and wild,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “In the 1880s, rinderpest caused losses of up to one million head of cattle in Russia and central Europe.” (Source: If the disease is eradicated, and it appears likely that will happen, it will be the first time humans have extinguished an animal disease in the wild.

In the 1800s, rinderpest started famines in Africa because it wiped out millions of cattle, and some wildlife. Those animals would have been used as food for humans. It has been estimated about one-third of Ethiopia’s human population starved to death due to the rinderpest triggered famine. By the middle of 2011, the disease could be eliminated, due to various international efforts lasting decades.

Rinderpest is a virus spread by physical contact and contamination of materials. Animals such as cattle, buffalo, yaks and their wild relatives have been devastated by the virus. Sometimes entire herds were wiped out in a matter of days. In the 1980s rinderpest caused $2 billion in livestock losses in Nigeria.

Rinderpest may have originated in Asia, and spread by 3,000 B.C. to Egypt, and then on to Africa. In the 1890s it killed about 80-90 percent of cattle in South Africa.

Eradication efforts using a limited amount of vaccination began in the 1700s but there wasn’t enough scientific knowledge of vaccination to make it a reliable and effective method of cow protection then. By the 1960s, vaccination was well known and stable enough it could be used effectively. Mass vaccinations have been the main method of preventing cows from contracting rinderpest.

The last confirmed documented case was in Kenya, in 2001, although it is thought the virus may have been present in parts of Somalia. If it is confirmed in 2011 rinderpest has been wiped out, it would be the second virus eradicated by humans. Smallpox was the first.

Image Credit: Public Domain

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Dale Overall

Interesting and informative, certainly a fabulous help getting rid of this problem!

carlee trent
carlee trent6 years ago

wow noted

carlee trent
carlee trent6 years ago

wow noted

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L7 years ago

Wow, very interesting. I hope it's gone!

Grace Johnson
Grace Johnson7 years ago


Rachael S.
Rachael S7 years ago

Environmental impact of Cattle
Cattle — especially when kept on enormous feedlots such as this one — have been named as a contributing factor in the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

A 400-page United Nations report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that cattle farming is "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases". The production of cattle to feed and clothe humans stresses ecosystems around the world, and is assessed to be one of the top three environmental problems in the world on a local to global scale.

The report, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the environmental damage from sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are cited as the greatest adverse impact with respect to climate change as well as species extinction. The report concludes that, unless changes are made, the massive damage reckoned to be due to livestock may more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases. One of the cited changes suggests that intensification of the livestock industry may be suggested, since intensification leads to less land for a given level of production.

Roberto Vivas
Roberto Vivas7 years ago

Noted,Thank you

Zelime Matthews
Zelime Gizzi7 years ago

Glad to hear! Whahooo!

moggy w.
moggy w7 years ago

great news for farmers, for everyone. Thanks to vaccinations.