Das Rinderpest Getilgt Wurde!

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Whenever people disappoint me (such as when they vote for liberal Democrats) and I think that humanity is just useless, I like to reflect upon the progress of science. It is therapy that builds eudemonia. In this regard, a recent report from medical science is worth noting.

For only the second time in history, mankind has apparently wiped out a major disease. Smallpox was finally eliminated only fairly recently, and now a long-standing pandemic disease — rinderpest — has been eradicated. Rinderpest is a disease not of humans but of animals — specifically, cloven-hoofed animals. It means “cattle plague” in German, and has been around for at least a millennium, killing off animals — cattle, water buffaloes, Himalayan yaks, pigs, and other fauna—that are important to human survival. Given the historically crucial dependence of people on these beasts, the disease has been a plague on us as well.

The rinderpest virus is closely related to the measles virus, and would periodically break out in epidemics (such as the one that the Mongols brought with them to Eurasia in the 1200s). The modern campaign to rid the world of it began at the end of World War II, with the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization. It took about $5 billion in total worldwide expenditures — a mere pittance, really, considering that the recent Royal Wedding in Britain cost about $8 billion.

The key to wiping out the pest was threefold. First, a vaccine had to be developed that didn’t need constant refrigeration. Second (and related to that), the limited number of medical personnel (big-game veterinarians) devoted to the eradication campaign had to learn to employ locals and to focus their efforts on an area of Central Africa (the lowland areas of the Rift Valley) where the disease was persistently endemic. Finally, a quick diagnostic test for the disease had to be developed.

All this has now taken place, and it is cause for quiet satisfaction. We can, it appears, occasionally do something right.




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J Eyon

gary -

i was going to write a simple post - "i'm waiting for the libertarian punchline"

then i read the original article - and realized there never will be a libertarian one cuz - taking the article at face value - this eradication is a United Nations success story

oh well - it's good to remind libertarians that governmental actions can be successful

in fact - in the original article - there were groups that reminded me of libertarians - "[the disease was rampant in africa] and many had pastoralist tribes...[who lived in] the borderless fringes and drove cattle up to 50 miles a day, having virtually no contact with governments and getting no veterinary bulletins...[in addition they feared that] vaccination brought disease."

in case you didn't gather - those people prolonged the disease

finally - here's a counter-culture reference that amused me - [Catholic] priests were ordered to stop relying on prayer alone and to preach from the pulpit that all herds with any sick members were to be slaughtered and buried in lime, while healthy herds were to be kept isolated...In the rest of Europe — where Protestants disdained papal orders — it persisted for a century and killed 200 million cattle.

yes gary - "we" can occasionally do something right - even the other "we"

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