Jonathan Arzt


My investigation of the state of veterinary affairs on Rapa Nui began in May, 1998 with a search for an economically important disease of dairy cow (pappilomatous digital dermatitis, PDD) which had been spreading throughout Chile and many other countries. Though PDD was not encountered on Rapa Nui, it was during that survey that I became aware of the much more serious progressive 20-year epidemic of neurological dysfunction and body-condition wasting among the island's horses and cattle (Arzt and Mount 1999; Arzt 2001). At the time, the syndrome was referred to locally as "vaca loca" (= mad cow disease), and was assumed to represent the widely publicized disease of the same name which had recently led to wide spread public panic, direct economic losses of over $8 billion, and necessitated the destruction of millions of cows in Europe. It quickly became apparent that the syndrome was inconsistent with mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in several aspects.