The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is predicting the extinction of the virulent cattle disease rinderpest by a UN deadline of 2010.

It says that efforts are underway to eradicate the last traces of the disease in northeast Kenya and southern Somalia.

Meanwhile, the FAO is confident that the disease is no longer present in three of its last strongholds: Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen.

If successful, it would be the second disease eradicated in history, after smallpox.

Rinderpest is a highly infectious viral disease that can destroy entire populations of cattle and buffaloes. In the past, it has caused widespread famine and serious economic damage, although the virus does not affect humans directly.