Aralagodu village in Sagar Taluk of Karnataka Shivamogga district has been the epicentre of the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) this year. KFD, which is also known as Monkey Fever is a disease caused by the Kyasanur Forest Virus Disease, which was first isolated in the 1950s’ from a sick monkey in the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka.
Dr. G.D. Ravindran, Professor at St. John’s Medical College Bangalore said that the disease is an Arbovirus infection, meaning an infection caused by Arthropod borne virus. The vectors of the disease are forest ticks which infect monkeys. The monkeys in turn pass on the infection to human beings. It is believed that the ticks were first brought to India by migratory birds from Russia.
As per information available at Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) transmission occurs through tick bites or contact with sick monkeys.
Infected persons typically exhibit symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, headache and gastro intestinal bleeding. Most patients recover recover within 1-2 weeks without any complications; however it can be fatal in a few cases. In the current outbreak in Karnataka, five deaths have been reported so far.
There is no cure for the disease. Treatment maintenance of hydration and precautions and treatment for persons with bleeding.
A vaccine is available against the virus. Preventive measures include spraying of insecticides, using insect repellents and wearing protective clothing. Monkey deaths have been reported in the neighbouring taluks of Kundapura, Udupi and Teerthahalli. The health department of Teerthahalli Taluk has advised people not to collect dry leaves and twigs from the forest for use in farmyard manure. Not only can they get infected by ticks present in the leaves, the ticks then also travel from the forests to the villages. Hence for the time being they should refrain from going to the forest; those venturing into the forest have been advised to use insect repellent. Livestock too needs to be protected with insect repellent. The health department has called for joint action by the departments of animal husbandry and forestry in combating the disease.
So far 57 cases of KFD infection have been reported from Shivamogga district. The health department has sought to reassure people by taking measures such as spraying of insecticides on forest borders. Scientists are collecting ticks from the forests around Sagar. Monkey carcasses have been sent to Shivamogga for post mortem and lab tests. More than 1000 people have been administered vaccine. Villagers have been provided DMP oil which is an insect repellent. D.C. Thammanna, Karnataka’s Minister for Transport and district in-charge Minister has announced that the state would bear expenses for treatment of persons with KFD.
Villagers in this verdant forest area of the Western Ghats are anxious over the deaths (five persons) as well as the carcasses of monkeys being found in large numbers. They claim that many monkeys that are captured in cities are being released into forests of this area. They allege that this is the cause of the disease as these monkeys are not native to the area and are not disease resistant. A few environmentalists concur. They are of the opinion that the black faced monkeys (common langur) which are native to this area are resistant to this virus. Following destruction of habitats of red faced monkey elsewhere, those monkeys are migrating to urban habitations. City and town planners usually deal with the problem of monkey menace by capturing them and releasing them in the Western Ghats. The non-native species (red-faced monkeys) get infected easily and spread it to human populations.
The KFD Janajagruthi Forum has started a campaign demanding culling of monkeys.