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The world was declared to be officially free from rinderpest infection at the OIE General Session in May 2011. This historic moment followed decades of internationally concerted effort to eradicate the disease. Rinderpest, once the scourge of societies across Asia, Europe and Africa, is only the second infectious disease, after smallpox, to have been eradicated thanks to the efforts of humankind.
With infection eradicated both from livestock and wildlife, the OIE enters a post eradication era with new challenges lying ahead. The world remains vulnerable to rinderpest, with virus stocks, vaccines, and biologic samples, which may contain the virus, still stored in over 40 laboratories world-wide. Until these potential sources of rinderpest virus are either safely destroyed or transferred to a minimum number of high containment facilities, approved by OIE and FAO, the world remains at risk of a reoccurrence through an accidental release or a deliberate terrorist act.
All OIE Member Countries signed up to Resolution at the OIE General Session in May 2011, committing themselves to destroy remaining virus or safely store them in a minimum number of approved high containment laboratories; to remain vigilant to reoccurrences of the disease; and to cease all unapproved research activities. A parallel resolution was adopted by FAO in June 2011. The OIE and FAO are working to ensure that these actions are urgently and fully implemented to prevent this dreadful disease from resurfacing.
FAO and the OIE have formed a joint advisory committee made up of seven of the most highly qualified individuals nominated by OIE and FAO. Central pillars to the OIE’s role in the post-eradication era are the FAO-OIE rinderpest Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) and the OIE Reference Laboratories for rinderpest; both provide technical support to the OIE. The JAC will also provide guidance to the Directors General of the OIE and FAO in, among others, approving rinderpest research proposals and high containment facilities responsible for safeguarding the virus.