VERSAILLES, France, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Rinderpest, a disease that decimated cattle herds for centuries, will officially be history this coming June, a United Nations official said Monday in New York.
The milestone, which comes during World Veterinary Year, will mark the first time an animal disease has been wiped out worldwide, said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The last known outbreak of the highly infectious viral disease was in Kenya in 2001.
"This will be the first time in human history that a zoonotic disease will have been totally eradicated and only the second time, after the victory over smallpox, that any disease has been totally stamped out of existence," Diouf said at the opening ceremony of World Veterinary Year in Versailles, France.
Rinderpest, which peaked in the 1920s and does not directly affect humans, causes high fever, discharge from eyes, nose and mouth, and frothy saliva in cattle. It takes just a few days for a sick animal to die and can wipe out whole herds. For example, one epidemic in the 1890s killed 80 percent to 90 percent of all cattle in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in widespread hunger and starvation among the people living there.
The final declaration of disease's eradication will follow a review of final official status reports, Diouf said.