Deforestation behind KFD outbreak?

Evidently, whenever deforestation activity reached its peak, KFD flared up and the death toll rose. (DH Photo)

The repeated outbreak of KFD, while throwing a gauntlet to the health practitioners and virologists, has also evoked interest among anthropologists and sociologists who often linked the disease to rapid and increased diversion of forests. Evidently, whenever deforestation activity reached its peak, KFD flared up and the death toll rose. Further, the doctors who have been documenting the outbreak, have also noticed that KFD is often reported from fragmented forest patches.

Noted anthropologist Mark Nichter of the University of Arizona observed that the massive outbreak of 1982 was preceded by extensive deforestation across Shivamogga paving way for plantations. “The KFD virus is a pathogen that has long existed as part of an established ecosystem in South Kanara. Human modification of that ecosystem through deforestation caused the epidemic occurrence of the disease. Due to deforestation, canopy dwelling species like monkeys were compelled to spend time on the ground and exposed to the ticks,” he noted in his analytical article published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

Fragmented patches

Echoing a similar concern, Dr Kiran, a field official, said, “At the outset, there is every possibility that KFD is linked to extensive deforestation activities. Much of the outbreak has been reported from fragmented forest patches. Almost all zoonotic diseases have transitioned from vectors to humans whenever there is increased human invasion into the wild.”Besides, the researchers have also documented that the disease takes the epidemic form for a few years and fizzles out until the building up of a massive pool of infected ticks. Dr Gudadappa Kasabi, a health officer, said that the research team has come up with a module that could provide risk maps for the future keeping in mind the data for five years. This apart, the health officials along with animal husbandry department have also decided to propose to the government to provide livestock with Ivermectin injection that kills ticks stuck on to the body of livestock when they get into the forest for grazing. “We are also mulling to put forth a proposal to study the KFD from an inter-disciplinary approach combining all forms of medicine and veterinary medicinal system,” he pointed.

Dr Kiran explained that the last detailed study on the nature of KFD virus was carried out in 2014 and now they intend to propose yet another study to ascertain if there are any changes in the strains.

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