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PORTSIDE  October 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE October 2010, Week 4

Subject:

Rinderpest Virus Has Been Wiped Out

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Date:

Mon, 25 Oct 2010 00:29:26 -0400

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Rinderpest Virus Has Been Wiped Out, Scientists Say
By Pallab Ghosh
BBC News
October 14, 2010
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11542653

Scientists working for the UN say that they have
eradicated a virus which can be deadly to cattle.

If confirmed, rinderpest would become only the second
viral disease - after smallpox - to have been eliminated
by humans.

Rinderpest was once prevalent in the Middle East, Africa
and Asia.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has
said that it will now suspend its efforts to track and
eliminate the virus.

The FAO said it was "confident" the virus has been
eradicated from those parts of the world where it is
prevalent.

When the disease arrived in Africa at the end of the
nineteenth century between 80% and 90% of cattle and
buffalo on the continent were killed.

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.

Dr John Anderson from the Institute for Animal Health
(IAH) at Pirbright, UK, who has been involved with the
eradication programme, said: "For too long people have
been involved in controlling diseases and not actually
dreaming that it is possible to eradicate a disease from
the world. And with Rinderpest we did."

The latest FAO progress report on the rinderpest
eradication programme said: "As of mid 2010, FAO is
confident that the rinderpest virus has been eliminated
from Europe, Asia, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, and
Africa."

These are the regions afflicted by the viral disease in
the recent past.

A formal announcement on the eradication of rinderpest
is expected to be made by the World Organisation for
Animal Health (OIE) next year.

Dr Anderson and his colleagues at the IAH helped develop
a simple way to test cattle to see if they had the
disease.

The test, which was developed with the support of the
UK's Department for International Development, was
designed to be used by local people in the field and to
give reliable results within minutes. It proved highly
effective and the technology has been rolled out across
Africa.

This was particularly important in the later stages of
the programme when pockets of the virus remained in war-
torn areas of southern Sudan and Somalia.

Dr Mike Baron of the IAH told BBC News that it had been
too dangerous for outsiders to enter those areas.

Experts, he said, would train locals - so called
'barefoot vets' - to recognise the disease and
administer vaccines. They would work with nomadic
tribesmen in the regions and vaccinate herds "on the
move".

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.

"It's an enormously important achievement because it
highlights what can be done by people working together,"
Dr Baron told BBC News.

"It has also taken a disease which has been a huge
threat to the livelihood of people and removed it."

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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