Rinderpest: Disease and Impact on Animals

Rinderpest has historically been present in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The Americas and Oceania never had rinderpest epizootics. This virus is an ancient disease whose signs were recognized well before it was given its current name. The virus may well have given rise to human measles when humans began to domesticate cattle more than 10 000 years ago.

Historical records suggest that rinderpest originated in the steppes of central Eurasia. And later it spread across Europe and Asia with military campaigns and livestock imports. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the disease devastated parts of Africa. This virus also appeared briefly in the Americas and Australia with imported animals but was quickly eliminated. You May Also Like To Read Cattle Diseases.


The fall of the Roman Empire, the conquest of Christian Europe by Charlemagne, the French Revolution and the impoverishment of Russia was preceded by epidemics of rinderpest and consequent losses. When rinderpest was introduced in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of the 19th century, it triggered major famines. And paved the way for the colonization of Africa.

In the 1940s in China, it became clear that as long as rinderpest was not stopped, significant agricultural development could not take place. Rinderpest epidemics have therefore not only been associated with large economic losses. In regions that depend on cattle for meat, dairy products, and animal traction, rinderpest has caused widespread food problems and serious economic and political damage.

This virus has caused hundreds of millions of livestock deaths over hundreds of years. Further disease control worldwide contributed to the green revolution in agricultural production. Rinderpest has historically been present in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The Americas and Oceania never had rinderpest epizootics. In 2011, it was possible to eradicate rinderpest. And this was made possible by vaccination.

Characteristics of Rinderpest

Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague, is a contagious viral disease that mainly affects cattle and buffalo. The causative agent is a virus of the genus Morbillivirus, the family Paramyxoviridae. There are many species of wild and domestic ungulates, including sheep and goats, which have milder symptoms of the disease.

There are herds of cattle or buffalo that are susceptible to contracting the virus, which is commonly affected, the mortality rate can reach 100%. This virus can be transmitted and disseminated by contact between virus-carrying animals and susceptible animals. The virus is located in the nasal secretions from a few days before clinical signs appear. You May Also Like To Read Goat Diseases.

As the infection progresses the virus is present in most body fluids until the animal dies or, upon recovery, acquires immunity and removes the agent from its body. In addition to cattle and buffalo, this virus may affect the zebu, water buffalo, African buffalo, Cape Eland.

As well as wildebeest, several species of antelope, the red butcher (bushpig), the facocero, the giraffe, the sheep and the goat. Some wild animals can carry the virus without showing any clinical signs of the disease. And in rare cases, (re) introduce by contact the infection in populations of domestic animals.

In the bovine species, which are the most susceptible, the classic clinical signs are:

  • High fever.
  • Depression.
  • Erosive lesions in the mouth.
  • Erosions in the mouth and digestive tract.
  • Secretions in the eyes and nose.
  • Heavy diarrhea and dehydration.

The animals become dehydrated and lose weight quickly and die about a week after signs of the disease appear. All of which leads to death within 10 to 15 days.

Morbidity and mortality vary with the susceptibility and immunity of the animal. In addition, there are no animals that act as “reservoirs” or stockpiles of disease. In other species, the disease is milder. You May Also Like To Read Duck Diseases.

Special Feature

Clinical signs, particularly in mild cases, are not specifically indicative of rinderpest. With serological tests, it is determined whether an animal has been exposed to the virus. But the definitive diagnosis is based on the identification of the viral agent in blood or tissue samples. The last recorded case of rinderpest dates back to 2001.

Prevention or control of the Disease

In case of the presence of rinderpest in its natural host, complete emergency response measures should be applied.

Measures to control Rinderpest consisted of:

  • Control of the displacements.
  • Destruction of animals infected or that have been in contact with the infection.
  • Elimination of canals and contaminated material.
  • Sanitation and disinfection.

Animals that are reintroduced from rinderpest enjoy permanent immunity. And in the past, vaccination campaigns have resulted in a steady decline in prevalence throughout the world. In the 1980s, the Global Program for the Eradication of Rinderpest.


Rinderpest was a viral disease of cattle and other ruminants (domestic and wild) characterized by fever, erosive stomatitis, diarrhea, and high morbidity and mortality. In the post-eradication era, testing for rinderpest should be considered when an etiologic agent cannot be determined for an infectious disease with characteristic signs of rinderpest. The reemergence in Nigeria in 2011 is a sobering reminder that this virus has not been completely eradicated. We need to maintain our current information about it so we know how to respond if it ever comes back again!

As A Reference: Wikipedia

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