Rinderpest: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot rinderpest, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

Rinderpest is a disease of cattle.

Humans aren’t affected.

The last outbreak in Great Britain was in 1877.

The rinderpest virus was eradicated worldwide in 2011. There is a small chance of an outbreak, for example if disease samples were to escape from a laboratory.

Rinderpest is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot rinderpest

Signs of rinderpest may include:

  • grain-like bumps in the nostrils and inside the lips and cheeks that often develop into ulcers
  • discharge of watery mucus from eyes and nostrils, occasionally including blood
  • rapid breathing
  • reduced milk production in cows
  • loss of appetite
  • fever

Cattle may be constipated In the early stages of rinderpest.

In the later stages diarrhoea is common, in which case the dung has a foul smell and is often tinged with blood.

Rinderpest spreads quickly within a herd and animals usually die 6 to 10 days after signs appear.

How rinderpest is spread

Rinderpest is generally spread by direct contact with an infected animal or its body fluids.

The disease can also be spread by contaminated equipment and clothing, and over small distances on the breath of infected animals.

Preventing and controlling rinderpest

You can help prevent disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.

If you report suspicion of rinderpest APHA vets will investigate.

If rinderpest is confirmed, the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation relating to rinderpest

The main domestic legislation on rinderpest is the Cattle Plague Order 1928

The main EU legislation on rinderpest is Council Directive 82/894 and Council Directive 92/119

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 18 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. First published.