Written for CENTAUR Global Network
RINDERPEST GLOBAL ERADICATION – HISTORICAL SUCCESS OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
Honorary Member of the CENTAUR International Advisory Board
Former Chief, Animal Health Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
rinderpest recurred throughout history causing hundreds of millions of animal
deaths. The rinderpest has been registered in 114 countries of all continents,
causing enormous economic losses. After the World War II the rinderpest was
reported still from 66 countries. The largest and longest international
anti-epizootic global programme against
the most dangerous animal disease has been successfully completed before
the end of 2010. Specific vaccination was finished in 2006 and during following
surveys it had been no evidence of the existence of this infection in the
nature. The initial programmes at local and national levels were gradually
extended. In 1986 FAO Animal Health Service started global
rinderpest eradication programme fixing the deadline and merging newly
established regional projects in
The rinderpest (caused by a Morbillivirus) initial symptoms included high fever, loss of appetite, nasal and eye discharges following by haemorrhagic erosions in the mouth and by acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea. Most animals died 6–12 days after the onset of clinical symptoms. It was mainly spread by direct contact, contaminated water and by infected animals’ movement. Due to extreme lethality the rinderpest has been included among biological weapons.
Fig. 1 Herd of cattle dead due to rinderpest (World Animal Review, Special Issue – Rinderpest, 1983, FAO)
rinderpest recurred throughout history.
It caused hundreds of millions of animal deaths that preceded famines in
Rinderpest – haemorrhagic erosions on the inner surface of the lower and upper
lips, the gums and on the surface of the tongue,
Rinderpest – haemorrhagic diarrhoea,
Rinderpest – haemorrhages in the small intestine,
5. Rinderpest – haemorrhages in the gallbladder,
The catastrophic consequences of the rinderpest caused in 18th century the foundation of the veterinary profession, in 19th century the establishment of public veterinary services and in 1924 the foundation of the International Office of Epizootics (OIE). The rinderpest was historically registered in 114 countries of all continents. Its eradication was one of the main objectives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) when it was established in 1945. The g l o b a l rinderpest eradication programme started in 1986 and ended in 2010 (including very long surveillance period) when the FAO announced that it was confident the disease had been eradicated and declared the end of field operations of this programme.
Fig. 6. Rinderpest – map of all countries affected (V. Kouba according to OIE WAHID 2009 data)
In June 2011, FAO Conference, the highest body of the United Nations agency, officially recognized global freedom from this deadly cattle virus adopting a resolution declaring the eradication of rinderpest (“FAO Declaration on Global Freedom from Rinderpest”). The author was attending this historical moment being invited as former Chief, Animal Health Service, FAO when he was responsible for global rinderpest eradication programme and its results. This invitation and message that "FAO highly values your contribution towards the eradication of rinderpest” represent the impulse to write this paper to acquaint the reader with some aspects of this historical achievement.
The main source of data for this paper was represented by the documents of FAO Animal Health Service (AGAH) responsible for executing worldwide assistance to member country governments’ animal health programmes, including control/eradication of rinderpest as the priority disease. The protocols from AGAH meetings, international negotiations and expert consultations related to the rinderpest were for this paper of key importance. Other sources were found in the yearbooks on animal disease worldwide occurrence as published in the FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook and in the OIE World Animal Health as well as the data of the OIE World Animal Health Information Database (OIE 2010). Other FAO and OIE specific publications on rinderpest (FAO 1996, 1998, 2011, OIE 2011) were of particular importance.
The author as the Editor-in-Chief during 1978-1984 and 1987 was regularly evaluating in the FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook rinderpest global epizootiological changes and introduced detailed reports on “Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC), Organization of African Unity (OAU), Nairobi, Kenya” and on “West Asia Rinderpest Eradication Campaign Coordination (WARECC)”.
The papers published by FAO-AGAH-EMPRES (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases) in 2011 in a special issue of its Bulletin on rinderpest global eradication (Slingenberg; Chibeu and El-Sawalhy; Kamata; Mathur; Njeumi and Roeder; Sasaki, Rajasekhar, Raja and Hussain) represented important information as well.
Personal information of AGAH virologists in charge of the anti-rinderpest programmes, e.g. Dr. Y. Ozawa and Dr. K. J. Wojciechowski, was also taken into account. Finally, there was considered author’ personal experience from solving rinderpest problems (Kouba, 2003, 2010 and 2011) when he was as the Chief, Animal Health Service, FAO responsible for global anti-rinderpest programme implementation and its results.
The development of rinderpest control methods had a long history. More or less passive approach lasted up to 18th century when stamping out and cattle movement control were started. During the first decades of 20th century these methods were combined with using rinderpest serum to limit spread of outbreaks. After the World War II the serum was replaced by anti-rinderpest vaccine.
The basic control activity was to identify the territories with the rinderpest occurrence, i.e. affected localities/herds – outbreaks, zones under direct specific risk, zones under indirect specific risk, the limits of territories free of clinical cases of rinderpest and limits of territories free of rinderpest virus. This required extensive serological monitoring in domestic and wild animals of rinderpest susceptibles species.
The Joint FAO-IAEA Division on Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture was instrumental in introducing and expanding diagnostic capabilities in developing countries, with initial emphasis on rinderpest diagnosis and on Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) as the appropriate technology. The range of diagnostic technology was expanded, especially into Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques for detection and characterisation of pathogens.
Radical methods consisted in sanitary slaughtering all specifically diseased and suspected animals as well as animal-contacts. Very strict quarantine of infected sites and surrounding zones was supplemented with perifocal and territorial vaccination in the areas under specific risk. (e.g. along borders between affected and non-affected territories/countries). Extraordinary role had mass vaccination using an attenuated tissue culture vaccine developed by W. Plowright (1962).
to J. Otte et al. (2011) the number of
specific vaccinations during 1950s -1990s reached 3 billion: West and
Control and eradication of rinderpest represented a very complex and difficult to solve problems being multiplied by the fact that every case was different under different conditions requiring different practical application of established anti-rinderpest principles.
It must be considered not only the rinderpest occurrence, its territorial localization, stage of development but also size, structure and distribution of domestic and wild animal populations of susceptible species. It must be considered veterinary service organization and its ability of anti-epizootic actions. It must be considered influencing factors such as ecological, economic, social and political conditions as well as public, government and donors’ supports. In some country political instability or even war complicated anti-rinderpest programme. The grade of the demandingness was multiplied by the fact that the time-bound programme required to reach the eradication prior to the deadline what was much more difficult than before without fixed global final term.
The extremely complex and demanding rinderpest eradication programmes, had different work/resources/time consuming phases: rinderpest etiology and epizootiology research and its results testing; field investigations to identify all outbreaks and threatened territories; identification of control/eradication strategy, tactics and methodology (incl. diagnosis system based on laboratory investigations); specific vaccine production and control; creation of necessary conditions (manpower, material, transport, funds incl. subsidies; logistics; public, legislation and political support, etc.); identification of specific objectives (incl. deadlines); attraction of donors; clearance procedures; starting phase; intensive attack phase combined with protective measures including vaccination; elimination phase, eradication phase and post-eradication phase under continuing surveillance verifying freedom from rinderpest and systematic evaluations. All these interconnected phases depending on the results of the previous ones were demanding but very important.
Complex system approach when applying action-oriented epizootiological principles (described e.g. in http://vaclavkouba.byl.cz/epiztextbook.htm) was of extraordinary importance.
Anti-rinderpest international programmes
FAO in 1946 started the programme to assist in the harmonization of efforts to contain high impact livestock diseases. Rinderpest was at the top of the list and ever since then has continued to be one of central elements of the activities and programmes of the Organization. Initially the eradication efforts largely took place on an individual country basis, using mass vaccinations.
Internationally organized FAO g l o b a l rinderpest eradication programme started in 1986 based on creating and merging three regional projects technically backstopped by the AGAH,: “The Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC)”– (FAO Project GCP/RAF/218/JPN), “The South Asia Rinderpest Eradication Campaign (SAREC)“ - (FAO Project RAS/86/023) and “The West Asia Rinderpest Eradication Campaign Coordination (WARECC)” - (FAO Project RAB/86/024) including existing and new national programmes. It was started a frontal assault against rinderpest in the affected countries and regions. That time the AGAH, after rinderpest global situation analysis and its estimated prognosis, set the deadline – “horizon 2010”. Time-bound strategy gave a new important impulse to global rinderpest eradication campaign at all levels conducing to the intensification of control/eradication (attack phases) measures aiming at the final objective.
required close collaboration with global and regional partners such as:
International Office of Epizootics (OIE) *), International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) **), African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR)
etc. as well as with funding agencies such as United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU), several donors’ country, international
banks etc.. The collaboration with relevant international rinderpest research
reference laboratories (first of all the Institute for Animal Health,
*) International animal health information system, standards for diagnostic tests and vaccines, rinderpest surveillance system – pathway, etc.
**) Rinderpest laboratory diagnostic.
Fig. 7. Rinderpest – map of global eradication programme in 1986 (FAO archive)
From 1994 the global rinderpest eradication programme was using pro forma the abbreviation “GREP” and began further intensification of much better funded final phase in the remaining rinderpest countries reaching successfully the objectives, i.e. global eradication.
Potential donors are usually much more generous when the programme promises final success very soon.
Global campaign required to link local programmes with national ones, national programmes with regional ones and these to link with the global one under the FAO leadership, responsibility, central coordination combined with concrete assistance, including AGAH field practical projects, to rinderpest and rinderpest-threatened countries. Member country governments required deeds not words (Acta no verba), i.e. final results.
Provided anti-rinderpest actions by the FAO Animal Health Service consisted in global initiative, organization, management, international coordination, gaining necessary external support and also in technical assistance to member countries. This usually consisted, after becoming familiar with the specific situation and influencing conditions, in various activities: identification of rinderpest situation and forecast of its trend; identification of infected territories (populations) and threatened territories; elaboration of anti-rinderpest contingency plans, strategy, tactics, specific protective, control/eradication measures and surveillance (e.g., large-scale serological monitoring for rinderpest situation identification, post-eradication control and confirmation rinderpest-free status); provision of methodologies (incl. manuals); assisting in rinderpest diagnosis (establishing and strengthening diagnostic laboratories including equipment and international experts); production and control of anti-rinderpest vaccines as well as cold chain establishment; specific training, information and control/evaluation system; advising on anti-rinderpest legislation; strengthening of veterinary services organization etc..
available data (OIE-WAHID 2010) the first country reporting last case of the rinderpest was
First major global impulse was given in 1985 (remaining 39 rinderpest countries) by identifying final deadline (2010) and in 1986 by starting g l o b a l rinderpest eradication programme merging three new regional ones. Second major impulse was given in 1994 (remaining 19 rinderpest countries) by AGAH/EMPRES. Numbers of countries reporting last case of rinderpest in individual decades were as follows: during the 1940s – 5, during the 1950s – 5, during the 1960s – 7, during the 1970s – 3, during the 1980s – 26, during the 1990s – 18 and during the 2010s – 2 and thus finalizing successfully the global eradication process as the major achievement in veterinary history.
According to the number of countries reporting last case of rinderpest it can be noted that during 1960-2010 there were two major “waves”. The first was between 1986 and 1993 when last cases were reported by 17 countries. The second wave was between 1994 and 2003 when last cases were reported by the remaining 18 countries finalizing the programmes started in previous periods.
Fig. 8. Rinderpest – graph on number of countries officially reporting last cases of rinderpest during 1963-2003 (V. Kouba according to OIE WAHID 2009 data)
The last evidence for rinderpest virus
circulation dates to 2003 in the Somali ecosystem in
Thirty-seventh Session of FAO
The resolution also called on the world community to follow up by ensuring that samples of rinderpest viruses and vaccines be kept under safe laboratory conditions and that rigorous standards for disease surveillance and reporting be applied. Stocks of the rinderpest virus will be maintained only by internationally selected highly specialized laboratories.
The resolution also required that with the cessation of field rinderpest eradication operations, programme attention to be redirected to maintain worldwide freedom from rinderpest, through safe custodianship and destruction of remaining stocks of vaccines or virus samples that may be held at research or diagnostic facilities. The resolution required also to develop a post-eradication strategy so as to consolidate success of eradication taking into accunt that the presence of virulent or attenuated rinderpest virus in laboratories constitutes a potential threat to the global disease-free status.
extraordinary achievement would not have been possible without the joint
efforts and strong commitments of governments, the relevant organizations in
The eradication of rinderpest in the world was first of all professional merit of incalculable number of veterinarians and their supportive staff at all levels headed by National Chief Veterinary Officers of the affected and threatened countries being supported by broad network of partners, several international organizations and financial sponsors. The global anti-rinderpest campaign structure involved incalculable number of participating persons and institutions at all levels creating a global organization pyramid with the FAO Animal Health Service on top of it.
Global rinderpest eradication programme principal role of initiator, promoter, organizer, co-ordinator, manager, facilitator and executor of concrete assistance to Member States with the responsibility for the worldwide results primarily played FAO Animal Health Service. It was headed during last five decades (1961-2011) by following Chiefs: Dr. Ervin Eichorn (USA), Dr. Reg Barn Griffiths (Great Britain), Dr. Yoshihiro Ozawa (Japan), Dr. Václav Kouba (Czechoslovakia), Dr. Yves Cheneau (France), Dr. Maurice Joseph Domenech (France) and Dr. Juan Lubroth (USA). Each of them was responsible for the anti-rinderpest global programme during a particular period. Special responsibilities within the FAO Animal Health Service had the virologists of the Infection Diseases Group and from 1994 of the EMPRES unit.
Note: The data for global historical cost/benefit analysis are not available. The overall cost of the rinderpest eradication campaign during centuries could be estimated only very very roughly (with a large question mark!): to be more than 50 billion USD?
Having accumulated sufficient international experience with global eradication of the most important animal disease, time has come to continue without any interruption in this international policy representing a n e w e r a of veterinary medicine – era of global veterinary medicine gradually “cleaning” our planet from the most important killing animal infections. It can be continued with planning of global eradication of one or two infections-killers meeting similar criteria as the rinderpest, e.g. of zoonotic glanders in a shorter term – 2025 (?) commonly with WHO and of foot and mouth disease in a longer term - 2050 (?).
Fig. 9. FAO badge commemorating rinderpest global eradication
This historic achievement of the global eradication of rinderpest ranked as the second in history after the global eradication of smallpox in humans in 1980. Rinderpest is the first animal infection eradicated globally not only in the susceptible species of domestic but also wild animals. Huge damage that rinderpest has done in the past will not be repeated. It is a great contribution to global development and production of animal species susceptible to rinderpest, to international trade and to developing countries’ livestock economy and poverty reduction. The global eradication of the rinderpest represents the major achievement in the history of veterinary medicine.
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The FAO Declaration on Global Freedom from Rinderpest. Adopted by 37th
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List of countries affected by rinderpest and years of reporting last cases (OIE World Animal Health Information Database - WAHID 2010)
Africa: Angola (1962), Benin (1987), Botswana (1899), Burkina Faso (1988), Burundi (1934), Cameroon (1986), Central African Republic (1983), Chad (1984), Congo (1986), Cote d’Ivoire (1986), Djibuti (1985), Egypt (1987), Eritrea (1995), Ethiopia (1995), Gambia (1965), Ghana (1988), Guinea (1967), Guinea Bissau (1967), Kenya (2003), Lesotho (1886), Libya (1966), Mali (1986), Mauritania (2003), Mozambique (1896), Namibia (1907), Niger (1986), Nigeria (1987), Reunion (1902), Ruanda (1932), Senegal (1978), Somalia (1983), South Africa (1904), Sudan (1998), Swaziland (1898), Tanzania (1997), Togo (1986), Uganda (1994), Zambia (1896), Zimbabwe (1898).
Asia: Afghanistan (1995), Armenia (1928), Azerbaijan (1929), Bahrain (1985), Bangladesh (1958), Bhutan (1969), Brunei (1950), Cambodia (1986), China (1955), Hong-kong (1950), India (1995), Indonesia (1907), Iran (1994), Irak (1996), Izrael (1983), Kuwait (1985), Japan (1924), Jordan (1972), Kazakhstan (1928), Korea (1931), Korea-DPR (1948), Laos (1966), Lebanon (1982), Malayasia (1924), Mongolia (1992), Myanmar (1957), Nepal (1990), Oman (1995), Pakistan (2000), Palestian Auton. Territories (1983), Philippines (1955), Qatar (1987), Saudi Arabia (1999), Singapur (1930), Sri Lanka (1994), Syria (1982), Taipei China (1949), Thailand (1959), Turkey (1996), United Arab Emirates (1995), Vietnam (1977), Yemen (1995).
Europe: Albania (1924), Austria (1881), Belgium (1920), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1883), Bulgaria (1913), Croatia (1883), Czech Republic (1881), Denmark (1782), Finland (1877), France (1870), Georgia (1989), Germany (1870), Greece (1926), Hungary (1881), Ireland (1866), Italy (1949), Latvia (1921), Netherlands (1869), Poland (1921), Romania (1886), Russia (1998), Serbia and Montenegro (1883), Slovakia (1881), Slovenia (1883), Sweden (1700), Switzerland (1871), U.K./Great Britain (1877), U.K. Northern Ireland (1900).