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Classification of the causative agent

Virus family Paramyxoviridae, genus Morbillivirus

Resistance to physical and chemical action

Temperature:  Small amounts of virus resist 56°C/60 min or 60°C/30 min
pH: Stable between pH 4.0 and 10.0
Chemicals: Susceptible to lipid solvents
Disinfectants:  Susceptible to most common disinfectants (phenol, cresol, sodium hydroxide 2%/24 hours used at a rate of 1 litre/m2)
Survival:  Remains viable for long periods in chilled or frozen tissues



No age- or sex-linked predisposition


Sources of virus


The virus has never established itself in the Americas or Australia/New Zealand. Its distribution in other parts of the world is restricted. In Africa it has been eradicated from several countries and sub-regions, and is normally absent from the northern and southern parts of the continent. Rinderpest occurs in the Middle East and in southwestern and central Asia
For detailed information on occurrence, see recent issues of World Animal Health and the OIE Bulletin


Incubation period is 3-15 days

Clinical diagnosis

Classic form: four stages

  • Incubation period
  • Febrile period (40-42°C) with depression, anorexia, reduction of rumination, increase of respiratory and cardiac rate
  • Mucous membrane congestion (oral, nasal, ocular and genital tract mucosae)
    • intense mucopurulent lachrymation and abundant salivation
    • anorexia - necrosis and erosion of the oral mucosae
    • this phase lasts 2-3 days
  • Gastrointestinal signs appear when the fever drops: profuse haemorrhagic diarrhoea containing mucus and necrotic debris. Severe tenesmus. Dehydration, abdominal pain, abdominal respiration, weakness, recumbency and death within 8-12 days. In rare cases, clinical signs regress by day 10 and recovery occurs by day 20-25

Peracute form

  • No prodromal signs, high fever (>40-42°C), sometimes congested mucous membranes, and death. This form occurs in highly susceptible young and newborn animals

Subacute form

  • Clinical signs limited to one or more of the classic signs. Low mortality rate

Atypical form

  • Irregular pyrexia and mild or no diarrheoa. The lymphotropic nature of rinderpest virus favours recrudescence of latent infections and/or increased susceptibility to other infectious agents

Sheep, goats and pigs

  • Variable pyrexia and anorexia
  • Inconsistent diarrhoea


  • Pyrexia, prostration, conjunctivitis, erosions of buccal mucosa, death


Differential diagnosis


  • Foot and mouth disease
  • Bovine viral diarrhoea/mucosal disease
  • Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis
  • Malignant catarrhal fever
  • Vesicular stomatitis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Necrobacillosis
  • Paratuberculosis
  • Arsenic poisoning

Small ruminants

  • Peste des petits ruminants

Laboratory diagnosis


Identification of the agent

    Antigen detection

  • Agar gel immunodiffusion test
  • Direct and indirect immunoperoxidase tests
  • Counter immunoelectrophoresis
  • Immunohistopathology

    Virus isolation and identification

  • Virus isolation
  • Virus neutralisation
  • Immunoperoxidase staining
in VERO or bovine kidney cell cultures

    Virus RNA detection

  • Rinderpest-specific cDNA probes
  • Amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

Serological tests

  • Virus neutralisation
(prescribed tests in the Manual)


  • Sterile whole blood preserved in heparin (10 IU/ml) or EDTA (0.5 mg/ml) and transferred to laboratory on ice (but not frozen)
  • Spleen, prescapular or mesenteric lymph nodes of dead animals chilled to sub-zero temperatures
  • Ocular and nasal secretions of infected animals during either the prodromal or the erosive phase


No treatment

Sanitary prophylaxis

Medical prophylaxis


An 1989 'OIE Expert Consultation on Rinderpest Surveillance' resulted in a report entitled Recommended standards for epidemiological surveillance for rinderpest. This report was approved by the International Committee during the 58th General Session.


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Updated: 30/08/2000

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Office International des Epizooties