The news is the effective eradication of rinderpest, a viral disease of cattle. Rinderpest does not infect humans, and even in animals it barely occurs in the Americas (or Australia or New Zealand), though until recently it was common and devastating in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. So unless you are a large-animal veterinarian or a cattle farmer, the disease might never have been on your radar.
So why care that it is on the verge of being removed from the world? Because this marks the first time that a disease of animals has ever been eradicated — and only the second time that any disease has been eradicated at all. The first was smallpox. That was 30 years ago.
Since then, seven other human diseases have been targeted for eradication: Guinea worm (dranunculiasis), elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), measles, mumps, rubella, cysticercosis, and above all polio. None of those eradication programs have yet reached their target. Polio has probably come closest, at the cost of billions of dollars and undoubted millions of hours of volunteer effort — yet each time the goal seems within reach, the disease roars back again.
Piffle to those who say Science does nothing. I remember listening to the news and hearing about Smallpox being no more. I was 25. I was full of optimism that we were going to build a better, safer, healthier world.
And what do we have instead? People who claim AIDS is cured by mega doses of vitamins, Gillian bloody McKeith and the rise of homeopathy. God help us.