How to tackle one of Africa’s nastiest problems

Incurable, but preventable

IN A clearing close to the entrance of Kenya’s Meru National Park, a bronze statue of a buffalo can be seen standing on a plinth. Despite the best efforts of local elephants who occasionally mistake it for a real buffalo and attack it, it is there to commemorate the site of the final outbreak of rinderpest, a cattle disease similar to measles, which was eradicated in 2011.

Rinderpest has plagued Africa and other parts of the world ever since cattle were domesticated. In the 1980s an outbreak, originating in Sudan, killed millions of bovines across the continent. Eradication was a triumph of veterinary medicine, as rinderpest became only the second disease, either animal or human, to be wiped out, the first being smallpox.

It is exciting, therefore, that a team of scientists at a research institute in Kenya think peste des petits ruminants, or “goat plague”, could be eradicated too, thanks…

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