Saturday, July 23, 2011

Invasive Species: Cattle Plague

These animals died from cattle plague in 1896

Also known as the Rinderpest virus, this is one of the few micro-organisms on the 100 World's Worst Invasives list and was declared eradicated only last month after a world-wide campaign to be rid of the disease. It is now the second disease to ever be successfully eradicated, after smallpox.

A highly infectious virus, it affects numerous other animals like sheep, pigs, and many species of wildlife, though it is only truly devastating in cattle, buffalo, and yaks. It could easily wipe out a herd in an amazingly short period of time as the mortality rate in cattle is incredibly high, approaching 100% in some cases. Luckily, this is now one less thing to worry about for cattle herders that depends so heavily on their animals.

Rinderpest virus micrograph
The last known case of cattle plague was in 2001, but because it can be carried by wildlife it took several years before they were sure the virus was truly gone.  Like smallpox, Rinderpest now only exists in a small number of laboratory samples.

Rinderpest was listed on the 100 World's Worst Invasives as #81, though it is likely that it will be soon removed from the list. 

Images are from Wikimedia Commons under creative commons licenses: one, two

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