Rome Rinderpest Meeting

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

A disease known as rinderpest has been a problem in many areas of the world. Recently, a group of experts met in Rome, Italy to begin making final plans to destroy rinderpest. The experts agreed that an end to the disease is possible within ten years.

Rinderpest often is called cattle plague. The disease is caused by a virus that infects cows. The virus may cause high body temperatures and the uncontrolled expulsion of body fluids. Infected cows often die from the disease.

Rinderpest killed millions of cows worldwide during the second part of the Nineteenth Century. It led to a severe lack of food and economic ruin in many areas, especially in Africa. More recently, the disease caused an estimated five-hundred-million dollars in damage in Africa between Nineteen-Eighty-Two and Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization organized the Rome meeting on rinderpest. The experts agreed on an immediate goal to stop the disease in areas of suspected infection by the end of next year.

FAO officials say rinderpest may be a threat in parts of east Africa and southwest Asia. Experts say the virus that causes the disease was last reported in southeast Sudan two years ago. They believe it also may be found in southern Somalia. In recent years, the virus also was reported in Pakistan and northern Iraq.

Some experts suspect the disease may still be found in an area between northern China, eastern Russia and Mongolia. But there is no strong evidence of this.

The UN agency says experts must study all of these areas to see if the disease still exists. They say health officials must be ready to stop any rinderpest infection if it is found.

The experts say countries should plan to halt normal vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of rinderpest. Instead, they say health officials should search for evidence of the disease or infection. If it is discovered, all cows or buffaloes in the area should be given vaccines to protect them from the disease.

The experts say the next major goal is to stop using vaccines against rinderpest. They hope to reach this goal by the end of Two-Thousand-Two.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English