FAO, OIE urge reduction of rinderpest stocks

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A disease that devastated herds over the centuries is gone, declared eradicated in 2011.

Still, global authorities worry rinderpest could re-emerge through virus stocks held in laboratories, and they urge destruction of those materials. In November 2018, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published the document "Global Rinderpest Action Plan: Post-Eradication." (PDF)

The report describes ways local authorities can reduce the risk rinderpest will re-emerge, respond if it does, and gain the confidence to destroy remaining virus stocks.

Rinderpest spread through trade and migration routes through Africa, Asia, and Europe, killing hundreds of millions of wild and domesticated animals, the report states. It caused famines and may have been the first agricultural weapon.

The FAO and OIE declared the world free of rinderpest in 2011, making it the first animal disease eradicated by humans and second disease eradicated overall, behind smallpox.

Farmers and veterinarians last saw rinderpest in a herd in 2002, and expertise on the disease is waning, the global plan document states. Agencies with diagnostics and vaccines have reduced access to them. Re-emergence would be a global emergency.

The document gives countries and organizations advice on how to watch for rinderpest, find weaknesses against the virus, plan how they and partners would control it, and understand the consequences if it spreads.

The FAO has additional information at fao.org/ag/rinderpest.html.