Battling KFD: no time to lose

An outbreak of the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever in Shivamogga’s Sagar taluk has claimed the lives of five people in Aralagodu village. Eighteen people have tested positive for the disease so far. The numbers are worrying as they indicate a sharp rise in the number of cases as well as fatalities in recent years. The number of cases in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were 15, 24 and 34 respectively and 1, 2 and 3 related fatalities occurred in these years. KFD strikes annually in the area and usually in the run-up to summer but this time it has struck earlier than usual, with the first cases being reported in late November and the first fatality occurring in early December. Thus, more cases of KFD can be expected in March-April, which is the monkey fever ‘season’. It was in Kyasanur forest in Karnataka in March 1957 when several monkeys were found dead that KFD was first identified. Caused by a virus, KFD is transmitted by infected forest ticks. A variety of animals including monkeys, rats and squirrels play host to the ticks. Humans contract the virus and the disease when they are bitten by the tick. There is no known cure for KFD although it can be prevented by wearing protective clothing and by vaccination. Effectiveness of the vaccine increases with the number of doses and three shots are known to have an 83% efficacy.

Villagers in Sagar taluk have criticised health authorities for not acting in time to prevent the disease’s spread. While medical facilities in rural India are not known to be in the best of health, it is likely that the disease’s early arrival at Sagar would have taken health authorities by surprise. Since the first fatality, they seem to have swung into action. The forest department has banned people from entering the forest areas. Health authorities have advised the public to wear full-sleeved shirts and pants to protect themselves from tick bites. They have also initiated a vaccination drive in vulnerable villages and around 2,000 people have been vaccinated so far.

Diagnosis of the disease and thus treatment is often delayed as symptoms of KFD are similar to dengue. Additionally, diagnosis is being hampered by lack of facilities. Blood samples of patients are being sent to Manipal or Bengaluru as primary health care centres in Sagar are not well-equipped. Providing them with diagnostic facilities will help doctors start treatment early. The media has reported on people panicking in Sagar taluk. Rumours spread quickly in such situations. Authorities should provide factual information to keep down rumours.

Liked the story?

  • 1

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 1

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry

Comments:

Battling KFD: no time to lose

0 comments

Write the first review for this !