An outbreak of ‘monkey fever’ has allegedly afflicted 20 people of a village in Sagar taluk of Karnataka’s Shivamogga district. Furthermore, it was reported that two individuals were suspected to have succumbed to the disease, though lab tests have yet to confirm the same. Health department officials confirmed to TNM that six people have been found to be positive for the disease in Aralagodu village, but denied that anyone had died due to the infection.
Lokaraj Jain (28) died in a hospital in Mangaluru on Thursday while Manjunath (26) succumbed at the McGann Hospital in Shivamogga on Wednesday. The two were allegedly suffering from high fever and joint pain and were suspected to have contracted the disease, though reports have not yet been released to confirm it.
Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), known commonly as ‘monkey fever’, is a tick-borne zoonotic disease that was first reported in India in 1957 in Shivamogga district. Subsequently it spread to other parts of the state and outside Karnataka. Since then it has been seen in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad and Malappuram districts in Kerala, north Goa, and in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra.
States where KFD has been reported in India, courtesy National Centre for Disease Control
Speaking to TNM, Dr BS Shankarappa, District Surveillance Officer (DSO) of Shivamogga, stated that officials were currently conducting screening in the vicinity and were keeping a lookout for more individuals who may be suffering from the disease. Those presenting with symptoms are being monitored in local government hospitals.
“It is confirmed that six people have monkey fever. We are in the process of conducting proper screenings and informing people about the presence of such an ailment so that they will take the necessary precautions,” he said, adding, “We are supplying DMP oil to all those in the affected regions, which people have to apply before entering forest areas where ticks may be found. This acts as a repellent and prevents tick bites which cause the disease.”
Talking about preventive measures, Dr Shankarappa said, “This region is known to have been affected by KFD in the past, but for the past decade or so, no major cases have been reported. We are providing people in the affected localities with the vaccine as a preventive measure. It is given in three doses. Following the third dose, immunity is initiated against the virus. We are also disinfecting the whole area using malathion, which will help get rid of ticks.”
How does monkey fever spread?
The virus that causes KFD is a member of the flavivirus genus. It is transmitted to humans via infected ticks. It is commonly called monkey virus or monkey fever because it has been associated with the death of monkeys in the wild. Infected ticks pass on the infection to monkeys. When monkeys die from the infection, the ticks drop from their body creating a hotspot of infectious ticks. The infection can also be transmitted to humans via sick or recently infected and sick monkeys.
Symptoms of the infection in people include sudden onset high grade fever, possible nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea as well as haemorrhagic (bleeding) tendencies. There is no specific treatment for the infection. Doctors treat those affected based on the symptoms and ensure that their blood reports are within normal range so that haemorrhagic tendencies do not occur.