AskDefine | Define rinderpest

Dictionary Definition

rinderpest n : an acute infectious viral disease of cattle (usually fatal); characterized by fever and diarrhea and inflammation of mucous membranes [syn: cattle plague]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a contagious disease of ruminants and swine caused by an RNA virus of the genus Morbillivirus


Extensive Definition

expert-subject Viruses
Rinderpest is an infectious viral disease of cattle, domestic buffalo, and some species of wildlife. It is commonly referred to as cattle plague or steppe murrain. The disease is characterized by fever, oral erosions, diarrhea, lymphoid necrosis, and high mortality. The term Rinderpest is adapted from German, meaning cattle-plague.

The virus

As it is a Morbillivirus, the rinderpest virus (RPV) is closely related to the measles and canine distemper viruses. Despite its extreme lethality, the germ is particularly fragile and is quickly inactivated by heat, desiccation and sunlight.

The disease

Death rates during outbreaks are usually extremely high, approaching 100%. The disease is mainly spread by direct contact and by drinking contaminated water, although it can also be transmitted by air.
Initial symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, and nasal and eye discharges. Subsequently, irregular erosions appear in the mouth, the lining of the nose, and the genital tract.. Later in history, an outbreak in the 1890s killed 80 to 90 percent of all cattle in Southern Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa. Sir Arnold Theiler was instrumental in developing a vaccine that curbed the epidemic. More recently, another rinderpest outbreak that raged across much of Africa in 1982-84 is estimated to have cost at least US$500 million in stock losses.


In the early 18th century, the disease was seen as similar to smallpox, due to its analogous symptoms. The personal physician of the Pope, Giovanni Maria Lancisi, recommended the slaughter of all infected and exposed animals. This policy was not very popular and used only sparingly in the first part of the century. Later, it was used successfully in several countries, although it was sometimes seen as too costly or drastic, and depended on a strong central authority to be effected (something which was notably lacking in the Dutch Republic). Because of these downsides, numerous attempts were made to inoculate animals against the disease. These attempts met with varying success, but the procedure was not widely used and was no longer practised at all in 19th-century Western or Central Europe. Rinderpest was an immense problem, but inoculation was not a valid solution: In many cases, it caused too many losses. Even more importantly, it perpetuated the circulation of the virus in the cattle population. The pioneers of inoculation did contribute significantly to our knowledge about infectious diseases. Their experiments confirmed the concepts of those who saw infectious diseases as caused by specific agents, and were the first to recognise maternally derived immunity


Dr. Walter Plowright was awarded the World Food Prize in 1999, for developing a vaccine against rinderpest. The Plowright vaccine was developed to the RBOK of the rinderpest virus. The FAO predicts that with vaccination the cattle plague will be eradicated by 2010.


In 2008, scientists involved in rinderpest eradication efforts believe there is a good chance that rinderpest may join smallpox as officially "wiped off the face of the planet". Prior efforts, such as the Joint Project 15 in 1962 were very successfull, but ended prematurely and the disease made dramatic comebacks. The current Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme, run by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, has been active since 1993, and set its initial goals for eradicating the disease by 2004.


External links

sisterlinks Rinderpest
rinderpest in Afrikaans: Rinderpes
rinderpest in Danish: Kvægpest
rinderpest in German: Rinderpest
rinderpest in French: Peste bovine
rinderpest in Japanese: 牛疫
rinderpest in Dutch: Runderpest
rinderpest in Polish: Księgosusz
rinderpest in Italian: Peste bovina
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