rinderpest or cattle plague, an acute and highly infectious viral disease of cattle. It less frequently affects other ruminants, such as sheep, goats, and wild game. After an incubation period of three to nine days, a wide variety of symptoms may appear, including fever, inflammation of the mucous membranes, particularly the intestines, discharges from the eyes and nose, dehydration, and skin eruptions on the back and flanks. Death comes after four to eight days. Long dreaded in Eurasia because of its ability to kill entire populations of cattle, it was accidentally introduced into Africa in the late 19th cent., and in the 1890s large numbers of cattle died in E and S Africa, causing widespread starvation.
Rinderpest was long controlled largely by destroying infected animals, but an effective and economical vaccine was developed in the 1950s and 60s by British veterinary scientist Walter Plowright. By the 1980s, rinderpest occurred primarily in N and E Africa and SW and S Asia as a result of eradication efforts. A global eradication program was begun in 1994 by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which confirmed in 2011 that the disease had been eradicated worldwide.
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