A viral contagion of cattle, buffaloes, other ruminants and pigs, characterized by fever, discharge from the mucous membranes, constipation followed by diarrhoea in the final stages, and mouth ulcers, rinderpest results in a mortality rate of up to 90%. The disease is acute, lasting from 4 - 10 days.
An ancient scourge, it originated in Asia or eastern Europe and was brought to western Europe by invading barbarian tribes. It ravaged Europe for fifteen centuries until the 19th century when it was eradicated. Importation of animals (cattle in particular) helped to spread the disease in Africa and Asia. Importation of wild animals from Africa and Asia has given rise to outbreaks in zoos.
In India, rinderpest still occurs and is accentuated by the vast numbers of cattle and domestic buffalo and by the difficulties in maintaining strict quarantine measures. The cow in India is a sacred animal; this increases the difficulties of stringent control. In some instances, particularly in vaccinated herds where the disease is no longer self-evident by its high morbidity rate, rinderpest may be confused with other diseases, such as mucosal disease, so that adequate laboratory services must be available for differential diagnosis. In Southeast Asia, the elimination of rinderpest has progressed, but the condition is still present in Vietnam, Laos and Democratic Kampuchea. Rinderpest, like food-and-mouth disease, is a major obstacle to international meat trade.