Scientists in Karnataka's Shivamogga district are scrambling to take measures against the latest outbreak of the Kyasanur Forest Disease or 'monkey fever.'
The disease was first discovered in the Kyasanur Forest Range of Shivamogga in 1957 and recurs annually killing residents from the communities living in the forest areas.
For over 50 years, the disease remained contained in Shivamogga but it has now spread to Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Chikkamagaluru and Chamarajanagara and also across the state border to Wayanad, Mudumalai, Valpoi and Sindhudurg along the Western Ghats.
Researchers at the Virus Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) in Shivamogga, which was set up to tackle the spread of the disease in 1959, have done considerable research to determine how the virus spreads and why monkeys are found dead at the site of every outbreak.
It was determined after several experiments that the disease was spread by a tick vector and fatally affected monkeys and humans. A vaccine for the disease was developed in 1989 and is given to people residing in the forest areas every year.
Cases of monkey deaths are closely monitored and ticks in the area of a monkey death are collected and tested for the virus. Residents of the area are immediately given vaccination.
But in spite of the efforts of the researchers, the outbreak of the disease occurs in a new location every year forcing them to scramble and take measures to prevent it from turning into a public health crisis.
In 2018, an outbreak of the disease occurred at Aralagodu village in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district. So far, 68 cases of KFD have emerged and 6 people have been killed. A confirmed diagnosis of the disease has also been reported in Wayanad district of Kerala.
Researchers and Health Department officials in Shivamogga are on high alert to ensure that the outbreak of the disease is contained without any further casualties.