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Rinderpest is a highly contagious disease that had been known since humans initiated the domestication of livestock.
Before its eradication in 2011, rinderpest was the most impactful of all cattle diseases, since it could be 100% fatal in some herds, rapidly transmissible and affected cattle, buffaloes, yaks and many other domesticated and wild even-toed ungulates.
It is reported to have had originated in Central Eurasia, and later spread to Europe and Asia, according to trade and migration routes. The disease was also reported in the Americas and Australia in a lower prevalence.
Rinderpest triggered extensive famines in Africa and hindered agricultural development in Asia.
Efforts to understand the pathogeny of the disease and to provide adequate treatment and prevention were the driving force for scientific breakthroughs in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The vast repercussions of the disease at social and economic levels led in 1924 to the creation of the OIE, seeking for controlling infectious animal diseases at an international level and then to the creation of several Veterinary Medicine schools across Europe and Asia.
In 1920, rinderpest occurred unexpectedly in Belgium, when infected zebu cattle from India on their way to Brazil stopped in transit at the port of Antwerp.
At the initiative of France, an international conference was held to which all countries were invited. The conference was held in Paris in May 1921. It called for the establishment, in Paris, of an international office for the control of infectious animal diseases.