Two confirmed cases of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) popularly known as ‘monkey fever’ have been reported in Shivamogga district of Karnataka in the past one week, a year after a major outbreak of the disease in the region.
Narasimha (55) from Hemmakki village in Theerthahalli was diagnosed with KFD on January 2 and Bharat (18) from Sagar was diagnosed on Tuesday. The diagnosis was confirmed after tests conducted at the Virus Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) in Shivamogga.
Both Narasimha and Bharat suffered from fever and dehydration, which are known symptoms of KFD. Narasimha was shifted to Kasturba Hospital in Manipal after the fever continued to persist. He is currently receiving treatment and is likely to get discharged soon. Bharat has been admitted to a government hospital in Sagar.
KFD recurs every year in the months from November to May and is widely reported in summer months. These are the first cases reported in the KFD season of 2019-20. Last year, the disease took the lives of 14 people, including 12 people from Shivamogga district. 441 people were diagnosed with the disease in total. The outbreak of the disease in 2018 began as early as November in Aralagodu village in Shivamogga.
In 2019, the Karnataka Health Department admitted that there were lapses in managing the outbreak of the disease last year. The protocol was not followed in vaccinating a 10 km radius when the suspected case of KFD was found in Aralagodu. Subsequently, an outbreak of the disease occurred in Brahmana Ilakale, 8.6 km from Aralagodu.
Virologists and public health professionals working in Shivamogga began vaccination drives to contain outbreaks of the disease as early as July in 2019 to ensure that a major outbreak like the one last year can be averted. “Door-to-door vaccination was begun as early as July even though it was the monsoon season. This would earlier begin only in September but after the outbreak last year, it was decided that we would change the approach. This has helped restrict the outbreak of the disease so far,” a virologist based in Shivamogga told TNM.
However, virologists also warn that since the monsoon season ended later than usual in 2019, the onset of the disease may be delayed this year.
Since 1957, when KFD was first discovered in the Kyasanur forest of Shivamogga, the disease has recurred each year during the summer months, taking the lives of people residing in the forest areas. For decades, the virus was reported only in the forests of Shivamogga in the Western Ghat region of Karnataka but in the last six years, it has been reported in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra. Monkey fever is transmitted to monkeys and humans through infected vectors, which are primarily fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.