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September 19, 1986

Rift Valley Fever Caused the Fifth Plague of Egypt and That of 1977

JAMA. 1986;256(11):1444. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380110050017

To the Editor.—  Gombert et al1 suggested that the Fifth Plague of Egypt (Exodus 9:3-6) was caused by babesiosis. Subsequently, Jacoby2 mentioned more likely candidates for the plague, namely, epidemic viral diseases such as foot and mouth disease and rinderpest.It should, however, be emphasized that the Bible mentions a wide spectrum of animal species that were severely affected and died due to the "very grievous murrain," namely, "cattle which is in the field, horses, asses, camels, oxen and sheep" (Exodus 9:3). The two viral diseases suggested by Jacoby do not affect the complete range of the mentioned species. Both viruses are not pathogenic for horses and asses; rinderpest does not affect camels.More likely candidates are anthrax, as suggested by Shoshan,3 and Rift Valley fever (RVF), as suggested by me.4 There are some factors supporting the candidacy of RVF, an insect-borne zoonosis confined to the