Rinderpest is a viral infection mostly seen in cattle, and has been called the cattle plague. It can also occur in sheep, pigs, and, as we will discus, goats. In goats and sheep it is similar to, and easily mis-diagnosed as, the better known, Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), or the goat plague. With high mortality rates it is a disease to be concerned about, especially if you live in one of the areas where it is active, such as Africa, India and Nepal.
While some animals with Rinderpest, will show no symptoms and simply turn up dead, most animals will show signs of a problem. Remember most prey animals try to act tough and strong rather than show any sign of weakness or illness.
Fever is common.
Diarrhea or painful defecation.
Animals will curl up, or stand in a hunched position, indicating abdominal pain.
Ulcers in, and around the mouth.
Nasal discharge, and excessive salivation.
Pregnant animals may abort.
Weight loss, or loss of appetite.
Respiratory problems will be noticed, strained breathing.
Coughing, especially in the later stages.
Death occurs in 80% of the cases, roughly five to ten days after the fever develops.
Rinderpest spreads from direct contact between animals. While it cannot live outside of an animal for long, it may be spread through fresh feces, saliva, blood, and urine. The virus is killed by sunlight. The Incubation period is two to six days. There is no risk to humans.
A veterinarian may diagnose the virus through testing symptomatic animals. Dead animals will have lower viral counts and may not confirm the presence of the virus as well. Rinderpest may be confused with Foot and Mouth disease, Bluetongue, Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), bacterial infections, or poisoning.
The best way to deal with this, and most diseases, is through vaccination. Other than that isolation,or slaughter, of infected animals will help ensure the disease does not spread throughout the flock. Dead or slaughtered animals must be disposed of immediately. Recovered animals are not contagious. Not over crowding animals and keeping them stress free, are good preventative measures. Do not introduce any new animals to your flock without a quarantine period of at least ten days.
There is no treatment for Rinderpest, other than rest and keeping the animal separated to prevent further spread. As the mortality rate is high, and the fear of the disease spreading through the flock is always a concern, most infected animals are slaughtered.