When Professor John Gamgee convened the First International Veterinary Congress in Hannover in 1863, rinderpest was devastating the cattle herds of Europe. He told the congress, which had called him to discuss the measures necessary to control and eradicate the disease, that "under existing circumstances a work on cattle plague [rinderpest] does not demand an elaborate explanation of the reasons which have prompted its preparation". Since that time many studies have been made in rinderpest control, and now Europe, as well as much of Asia and Africa, is free of the disease. Nevertheless, the recent resurgence of rinderpest in equatorial Africa threatens the cattle population of an entire continent, while the possibility of a permanent enzootic focus being established on another continent is also the cause of great concern.
Twenty-eight African nations, under the aegis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), have responded to the threat by launching a new Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC). This Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign is supported by the European Economic Community (EEC), FAO, the International Office of Epizootics and several other donors. The role of FAO in the campaign has been and will be to mobilize donor inputs, to provide technical support and to monitor the progress of the campaign. Recently, the countries of South Asia have taken initial steps to launch a similar, internationally coordinated campaign under the aegis of the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia, the Far East and the Southwest Pacific (APHCA). The countries of the Near East region are also greatly concerned about the frequent outbreaks of rinderpest in that region, and the FAO Middle and Near East Regional Animal Production and Health Project (MINEADEP) is therefore preparing proposals for an international campaign in the Arabian Gulf region and the Arabian Peninsula.
This manual is an attempt to describe the proven techniques in the diagnosis of the disease. It is intended to be of assistance to both field and laboratory personnel and for this purpose is divided into three parts. Part I deals with presumptive field diagnosis; Part II provides guidelines for the collection and transport of specimens for diagnosis; and Part III, which constitutes the major part of the manual, consists of a treatise on confirmatory diagnostic methods.
It is hoped that the manual will be of assistance to those involved in the above-mentioned rinderpest campaigns and also to those countries trying to improve their diagnostic capabilities in order to prevent catastrophic outbreaks of the disease arising from the movement of livestock and livestock products.