Before eradication, Rinderpest was a devastating viral diseases of cattle that had a huge impact on the farming economy.
Transmission of the virus is via oral and nasal secretions. A carrier state is not recognised with this disease in cattle. Human measles was thought to have evolved in an environment where cattle and humans lived in close proximity during the 11th to 12th centuries.
Affected cattle show acute fever, lethargy, heavy mucopurulent naso-oral secretions and discharge. After 2 - 3 days, cheesy plaques develop on the lips, oral mucous membranes and tongue. Bloody diarrhoea ensues as the virus replicates along the intestinal tract.
As the disease progresses, cattle develop severe abdominal pain, bloat, thirst, and dyspnea. In naive herds, morbidity approaches 100%, with up to 90% of the herd becoming infected. In endemic areas morbidity is low and clinical signs are often mild.
A diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs augmented with laboratory confirmation of viral particles present in submitted samples. Cases oif cattle which show erosive dermatitis must be tested.
PCR assay testing is considered definitive.
Differential diagnosis would include other viral diseases such as foot-and-moouth disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumia, bovine infectious rhinotracheitis, bovine viral diarrhoea and malignant catarrhal fever.
Individually affected cattle were treated with supportive therapy including broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy, but responses to treatment were poor.
In outbreaks, cattle were controlled by quarantine and “ring vaccination” and sometimes by slaughtering. In epidemics the disease was best eliminated by imposing quarantine and slaughtering affected and exposed animals. Control of animal movement was paramount in controlling rinderpest; many outbreaks were due to the introduction of infected cattle to hitherto uninfected herds.
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