From Cow
Oral lesions associated with Rinderpest in a cow
Necrosis and fibronecrotic exudate in the small intestine of a cow due to Rinderpest
Oral mucosal lesions on a cow which had died from Rinderpest

Rinderpest (Cattle plague) is a highly fatal viral disease of cattle that appears to have been eradicated worldwide with no new cases reported since 2001[1].

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[2].

Clinical signs

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[3].

Differential diagnosis would include other viral diseases such as foot-and-moouth disease[4], contagious bovine pleuropneumia[5], 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.


  1. de Swart RL et al (2012) Rinderpest eradication: lessons for measles eradication? Curr Opin Virol 2(3):330-334
  2. Furuse Y et al (2010) Origin of measles virus: divergence from rinderpest virus between the 11th and 12th centuries. Virol J 7:52
  3. Yeh JY et al (2011) Simultaneous detection of Rift Valley Fever, bluetongue, rinderpest, and Peste des petits ruminants viruses by a single-tube multiplex reverse transcriptase-PCR assay using a dual-priming oligonucleotide system. J Clin Microbiol 49(4):1389-1394
  4. Domenech J et al (2010) Immune protection in animals: the examples of rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease. J Comp Pathol 142(1):S120-4
  5. Amanfu W et al (2009) Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (lung sickness) in Africa. Onderstepoort J Vet Res 76(1):13-17