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Scientists eradicate deadly rinderpest virus

October 15, 2010
"the biggest achievement of veterinary history"
- John Anderson, the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation

Scientists have eradicated a killer virus in the wild, only the second time such a feat has been achieved in human history.

Researchers at the UN said today that rinderpest, a virus that causes devastating cattle plague, has been wiped out, the first time such an announcement has been made since the end of smallpox more than 30 years ago.

John Anderson, the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, called the success "the biggest achievement of veterinary history". Rinderpest is the first animal virus to be contained and then eradicated in the wild.

A global eradication plan for rinderpest, backed by the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health, was launched in 1994. Scientists at the Institute for Animal Health's (IAH) Pirbright laboratory in Surrey developed pregnancy-test like kits that were distributed in affected countries so that local officials could identify and kill infected livestock. Animals in areas surrounding outbreaks were vaccinated to protect them from the disease.

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