Following an enquiry conducted by the state health department officials regarding the recent monkey fever outbreak in Shivamogga, District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Venkatesh and Dr Ravi Kumar, Deputy Director of the Virus Diagnostic Laboratory in the district have been suspended. In its investigation, the department found that dereliction of duty on the part of the doctor who was responsible for ensuring that frequent vaccination drives took place against the disease, contributed to the recent outbreak.
â€śThe Health Department has found that due to negligence in preventing, protecting, taking preventive measures, and identifying monkey fever as a problem and making available the facilities for the same, Dr Ravi Kumar has been suspended due to dereliction of duty. Under his supervision, the essential vaccines and the hygiene required to contain the epidemic were compromised. Dr Shankarappa will replace him henceforth,â€ť stated an official notice issued by the government.
A source from the district health office confirmed to TNM that the DHO too had been suspended and relieved of his duties.
Around 20 people from a village in Shivamoggaâ€™s Sagar taluk had allegedly contracted Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever in early January. It was reported that two people were suspected to have succumbed to the disease at the time as well.
Following this, several speculations arose about the Health Departmentâ€™s efforts to contain the disease, which has long been known to be common in the area. TNM found evidence which pointed to a serious lapse in following the vaccination protocols against the disease. Shivanand Patil, Health and Family Welfare Minister of Karnataka had confirmed the same to TNM at the time. "It has come to my notice that there have been lapses committed by the Health Department. An expert committee will be appointed and an internal enquiry will be conducted on this, which will include forest, health, rural development and the veterinary departments. The focus is on restricting the spread of the disease again.â€ť
The protocol since 1990 has been to vaccinate residents living within a 5 km radius of any suspected case of monkey fever. The radius was increased in 2014 to cover an area of 10 km after researchers found ticks positive for the virus at a distance of up to 10 km from an allegedly infected village. Since then, the protocol has been to vaccinate residents living within a 10 km radius of a suspected case of KFD.
However, in 2018, researchers found a tick positive for the virus in Brahmana Ilakale located, 8.6km from Aralagodu in Sagar taluk, where an outbreak occurred last. It was confirmed to TNM that vaccination did not take place in the locality, as per the protocol, though the region fell within the distance which was required to have been vaccinated. As a result, people of this area are now suffering from effects of the disease.
The virus responsible for causing monkey fever is a member of the flavivirus genus. It is transmitted to humans via infected ticks and has been largely associated with the death of monkeys in the wild. Infected ticks pass on the infection to monkeys. If a monkey succumbs to the disease, the ticks which drop from their body create a hotbed of infectious ticks. Should a person come in contact with a sick, recently infected, or even dead infected monkey, they run the risk of contracting the infection.