This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.
RINDERPEST (German for "cattle-plague," which is the English synonym), one of the most infectious and fatal diseases of oxen, sheep, goats, camels, buffaloes, yaks, deer, &c.; a virulent eruptive fever which runs its course so rapidly and attacks such a large percentage of ruminants when it is introduced into a country, that from the earliest times it has excited terror and dismay. It is an Asiatic malady, and has prevailed extensively in south Russia, central Asia, China, Indo-China, Burma, India, Persia, Ceylon and the Malay Archipelago. Thence it has at times been carried into Europe, and towards the end of the 19th century into South Africa. It appeared in Egypt in 1844 and 1865, Abyssinia in 1890, Japan in 1892, and the Philippines in 1898.
It has been noted that its irruptions into Europe in the earlier centuries of our era always coincided with invasions of barbarous tribes in the east of Europe; and even at a later period the disease accompanied the events of war, when troops with their commissariat moved from the east towards the west, or cattle, when they were carried in the same direction. One of the earliest recorded irruptions of cattle-plague into western Europe occurred in the 5th century after the sanguinary invasion of the Huns under Attila, the expulsion of the Goths from Hungary, and the fierce internecine wars of the whole Germanic population. The disease appears then to have been carried from Hungary through Austria to Dalmatia, while by Brabant it obtained access to the Low Countries, Picardy, and so on to the other provinces of France. In the curious poem De Mortibus Bovum written by St Severus, who lived at that period, the course and destructiveness of the disease are specially alluded to. Many invasions of Europe are described, and in several of these Britain was visited by it - as in 809-10, 986-87, 1223-25, 1513-14, and notably in 1713, 1 745, 1 774, 1 799. In 1865 and 1872 it was imported direct from Russia. In 1870-71 it destroyed 70,000 cattle in France, 30,000 in Alsace-Lorraine, and io,000 in Germany. In England an outbreak occurred in 1877, when it was imported from Germany, where the disease continued until 1879.
The infective agent has not been positively identified, but. it is known to exist in all the various secretions and excretions, in the flesh, blood and various organs of the body. Contagion may be direct or indirect, and the disease may be conveyed to healthy cattle by contaminated fodder, litter, water, clothing,. pasture, sheds, railway wagons, hides, horns and hoofs. Attendants, cats, dogs, birds, vermin and flies may spread the infection. Definite symptoms of the disease may not be recognized until the expiration of three to six days after exposure, the period of incubation.
Like some other general diseases, this does not. offer any exclusive or pathognomonic symptoms, but is rather characterized by a group of functional and anatomical alterations. An exact knowledge of its symptoms and necroscopical appearances is of the utmost importance, as its extension and consequent ravages can only be arrested through its timely recognition and the immediate adoption of the necessary sanitary measures. Intense fever, diarrhoea or dysentery, croupous inflammation of the mucous membranes in general, sometimes a cutaneous papular eruption, and great prostration mark the course of the affection, which is frequently most difficult to diagnose during life, especially if its presence is not suspected. Its introduction and mode of propagation can, in many instances, be ascertained only at a late period, and when great loss may already have been sustained. In the majority of cases the examination of the carcase of an animal which has died or been purposely killed is the best way to arrive at a correct diagnosis. Indeed, this is practically the only certain means of concluding as to the presence of the malady, as there are considerable variations in the chief symptoms with regard to their intensity as well as in the secondary symptoms or epiphenomena.
Among cattle indigenous to the regions in which this malady may be said to be enzootic the symptoms are often comparatively slight, and the mortality not great. So much is this the case that veterinary surgeons who can readily distinguish the disease when it affects the cattle of western Europe, can only with difficulty diagnose it in animals from Hungary, Bessarabia, Moldavia, or other countries where it is always more or less prevalent. In these the indications of fever are usually of brief duration, and signs of lassitude and debility are, in some instances, the only marks of the presence of this virulent disorder in animals which may, nevertheless, communicate the disease in its most deadly form to the cattle of other countries. Slight diarrhoea may also be present, and a cutaneous eruption, accompanied by gastric disturbance, running at the eyes, and occasional cough. In the more malignant form the fever runs high, 106° to 107° Fahr., and all the characteristic symptoms are well marked: dulness, sunken eyes, eruption on the skin, discharges from eyes, nose and mouth, shivering fits, difficult breathing, dry, harsh cough, miliary eruptions on the gums, accumulation of bran-like exudate within the lips, fetid breath, with certain nervous phenomena, and dysenteric dejections. Death generally occurs in four or five days, the course of the disorder being more rapid with animals kept in sheds than with those living in the open, and in summer than in winter. The post-mortem appearances are most marked in the digestive canal, and comprise red spots and erosions on the palate, lips, tongue and pharynx; intense congestion of the lining of the fourth stomach, which in places is covered with a grey or reddish pultaceous deposit, under which the membrane is deeply ulcerated. Similar lesions are seen in the small intestine, caecum and rectum. The membrane lining the air passages is congested throughout, and the lungs are emphysematous.
In recent years much has been done in Russia and India towards the prevention of rinderpest by inoculation and the use of immunizing sera. In South Africa the bile method (or the injection of bile obtained from cattle dead of rinderpest), discovered by Koch, in 1896; bile with admixture of glycerine, recommended by Edington; the simultaneous injection of serum and rinderpest blood, introduced by Turner and Kolle in 1897, and repeated injection of fortified serum alone, have been employed, more or less successfully, in conferring immunity. But elsewhere the main line of action has been in the direction of preventing the introduction of the disease by prohibiting the importation of cattle from infected countries.
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