Brian Perry, a former scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a continuing collaborator with ILRI, now a visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, writes a column, ‘Our Man in Africa’, for the Dick Vet News, of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Perry’s column in the current, Spring 2010, issue of the magazine ponders whether the eradication of the livestock scourge rinderpest in 2010 is ‘a role model or a lucky break’.
He comes down on the side of ‘lucky break’, although citing it as a tremendous achievement of many decades work.
Perry begins his article with the (fascinating) history of rinderpest:
‘2010 will likely be the year that the world declares freedom from rinderpest. Rinderpest has not been seen since 2001 and the freedom accreditation process is now underway, leading to the first global elimination of a disease since smallpox in 1979. The ancient disease of rinderpest has plagued cattle over the millennia, and was endemic in Europe as recently as the 18th Century. As Europeans built empires in the 19th Century, it moved with them. Indonesia and the Philippines were colonised by the Netherlands and USA respectively in the late 1800s, introducing rinderpest from mainland Asia. Rinderpest entered Eritrea in Africa in 1887 with cattle from India and swept through the continent with huge cattle mortality. Progressively it was brought under control in Asia, but Africa has remained the last bastion of this infamous murrain.’
Perry concludes by recommending that ‘While rinderpest eradication is undoubtedly a cause for major celebrations, in the complicated settings of many developing countries, lets not get carried away with by the ‘E’ word [eradication] when we go back to work on the other diseases confronting us. Instead let’s focus on ways to progressively reduce the burden of diseases, and contemplate eradication only when all the ducks, including the essential golden goose, are in a row.’
Read more . . . (Dick Vet News, page 27)