PARIS - The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has announced that Rinderpest, one of the deadliest livestock diseases has been eradicated worldwide.
This was announced at the OIE 79th annual General Session in Paris-France, where delegates from various countries officially recognised that all 198 countries and territories with Rinderpest-susceptible animals in the world were free of the plague.
Dr Theogene Rutagwenda, the Director General in the Ministry Agriculture and Animal Resources, who attended the conference, described the development as a major breakthrough for livestock farmers and traders.
“The mood was buoyant as I witnessed a historical event as Rinderpest was declared as the first animal disease ever to be wiped out,” Rutagwenda said.
Rutagwenda revealed that OIE declared Rwanda free of the disease in 2006.
The viral disease normally affects several species of wild and domestic cloven-hoofed animals, notably cattle and buffalo.
The 192 members of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are scheduled to approve a resolution on the declaration of global freedom from Rinderpest at the 37th FAO Conference to be held in Rome, Italy, in July 2011.
Dr. Rutagwenda noted that the eradication of the disease means that livestock production around the globe has become safer and livelihoods of millions of farmers are less at risk.
“Rinderpest is the first animal disease to be eradicated in world history, just as smallpox is the only human disease that has so far been stamped out by the medical profession,” he explained.
The challenge ahead is the management of post-eradication phase. Although the Rinderpest virus no longer spreads amongst animals, it is still present in certain laboratories, mainly for the production of vaccines.
Rutagwenda emphasised that there was need for international coordination and cooperation to define acceptable conditions for the possession and use of the virus still present in laboratories.
The next strategy for OIE, he said, is to make progress on the international control of other harmful illnesses such as foot and mouth disease, rabies.