Nr. 16 (1997)

J.R. Fisher

Of cattle plague and veterinary science: BSE in Britain in historical perspective

The title of this paper arises out of the treatment of the present BSE epizootic in sections of the British (and Australian) press. References to the 'Cattle Plague', naturally evoke the memory of the epizootic of rinderpest in the 1860's in Great Britain - and lead on to thoughts of comparative treatment. On this score, it is evident that, on anything more than the most superficial glance, the differences between the epizootics are pronounced. Analogies are unlikely to yield anything of any scientific value. Nevertheless, an attempt to set the two episodes into comparative perspective in veterinary history may have some merit. As the name applied to BSE in the press demonstrates, any similarity between the two outbreaks lies in the public responses to them. In 1865, in Britain, the credibility of professional science and knowledge came under question and public policy on animal health was found wanting. There have been like developments in 1996. These analogies are suggestive and, it is argued here that just as the rinderpest epizootic was the catalyst for major developments in veterinary science and the veterinary profession in the nineteenth century, so the BSE epizootic could occasion path-breaking changes in the late twentieth century.

C. Huygelen

The early history of immunization against three morbillivirus diseases: measles, rinderpest and canine distemper

In the eighteenth century measles, rinderpest and canine distemper were causing high morbidity and mortality in the human and animal populations of Europe. The opinion leaders of the time thought that all three diseases belonged to the pox group. Since small pox inoculation or variolation was becoming more popular toward the middle of the century, it seemed logical to extend the principle to other diseases presumed to belong to the same category. Attempts to inoculate against rinderpest and measles started in the 1750's. The first rinderpest inoculation experiments were done in England, but most later trials were carried out in The Netherlands, Northern Germany and Denmark. Rinderpest inoculation was abandoned in Western Europe before the end of the century, but continued to be applied in Russia for several decades thereafter. The first measles inoculations were performed in Scotland a few years after the first rinderpest experiments. Over a two hundred year period sporadic measles trials were carried out in various countries, but they never led to any widespread use. When Jenner's discovery of the protection afforded by vaccinia against smallpox became known, attempts were made to use vaccinia also against other diseases, particularly against dog distemper. Edward Jenner himself was the first to give a detailed description of distemper and also the first to try vaccinia to protect against it. Not surprisingly all these attempts failed. The progress in the search for effective immunization against the three diseases followed closely parallel paths. Reliably safe and effective live attentuated vaccines against all three did not become available before the second half of the twentieth century, two hundred years after the first attempts.

Ingrid J.R. Visser

Haematuria in cattle in The Netherlands in historical perspective

Haematuria (Blutharnen, Pissement du sang, bloedwateren) in cattle has been a typical vlinical phenomenon throughout the years. Especially in specific districts of the Netherlands the disease occured with a high incidence. Many theories about the origin of haematuria were developed. These involved climatic influences, the quality of the pastures, the consumption of specific plants or the presence of different beetles and insects in the fields. A large variation of therapeutic medicines was tried, most of them with a stimulating and irritating activity. The prognosis for older animals was better than for young ones. On the basis of the 18th century Dutch paterfamilial literature and the teachings of Alexander Numan, professor at the State Veterinary School of Utrecht, the causes, prevention and treatment of haematuria in cattle are discussed. Mention is made of the discovery of the etiologic agent by Babes and of several studies by Dutch veterinarians in this century. P. Mandigers Obstetrical observations by the cow doctor W. Munter (1767-1838) from Goudswaard (Prov. South-Holland) Before the time that certified veterinarians from the Veterinary School of Utrecht became available, assistance with difficult parturitions of farm animals often was given by experienced cow doctors. Such a cow doctor was W. Munter, who practised at one of the islands of South-Holland. He had obtained a license for veterinary practice after being examined by the socalled Leyden Commission, in 1808 installed by King Louis Napolon. In 1829 Munter communicated several of his case stories to Alexander Numan, director of the Veterinary School. These are edited and commented here. They shed light on the obstetrical problems Munter met in his practice and on the manner he solved them, and also on his views on the backwardness of many of his clients. It is concluded that Munter had a good practical knowledge and that he worked with accuracy.