Scientists say they have eradicated the deadly cattle virus rinderpest, marking only the second time in history that humanity has wiped out a viral disease. Smallpox was wiped out 30 years ago. Rinderpest—which originated in Asia and spread around the world with invaders from Genghis Khan onward—was capable of quickly killing off cattle herds and had caused famines and economic devastation for thousands of years. The Guardian notes that the disease killed between 80% and 90% of Africa's cattle and buffalo after arriving on the continent in the late 1800s.
The virus was wiped out by training locals to administer vaccinations, combined with widespread deployment of a test designed to quickly identify the disease. Its eradication is "the biggest achievement in veterinary history," says an expert who played a key role in the eradication campaign, which he believes can serve as a blueprint for erasing other diseases from our planet. "For too long I think people have been involved in controlling diseases and not actually dreaming that it possible to eradicate a disease from the world—and with rinderpest we did.” (Read more rinderpest stories.)