Disease cripples the region’s economy

Disease cripples the region’s economy

A view of Aralagodu village. (DH Photo)

Aralagodu in Shivamogga district caught the attention of the world with alarming mortality rate at the beginning of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) outbreak. The nondescript village located close to the borders of Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts is now seen as a disdained place. While the health officials have been working round-the-clock to contain further spread of the disease, the village and adjoining areas are going through a socio-economic crisis.

The region known for its scenic places has been a popular tourist destination. But ever since the KFD outbreak, the tourism industry has been at its lowest ebb with a cascading effect on allied industries. The forest department has banned trekking and birding activities in the region while also shutting Muppane Nature Camp for tourists. Similarly, visitors to the world-famous Jog Falls have been advised not to venture into the vegetation area as they might contract the virus.

Hanuma Naik, Assistant Director of Tourism, said, “Keladi, Jog Falls and Sigandur are the major tourist attractions in the KFD-hit region. The tourist footfall is likely to drop by 40% in January and February because of the disease fear.” Several allied industries like home stays, resorts and hotels have also witnessed a dip in the revenues.

Citing the rising number of deaths, about 40% of the people have deserted the village, according to Asha workers. “The villages in the region mostly has senior citizens with their children in Bengaluru, Shivamogga and Mangaluru. Many of them have taken away their parents to urban localities fearing infection. We
have been seeing only locked up houses in the interior areas,” explained an Asha worker.

M P Loka Gowda of Marabeedi village, who is currently being treated at Manipal, said, “My wife and two sons have also been tested positive for KFD. I am being treated for second phase symptoms. I have already lived my life and I don’t mind dying. What about youngsters in the village who are also at risk. They have no ways than to migrate in the absence of the government’s intervention.”

Krishnamurthy, yet another resident, said, “KFD has not only affected the health but also our farming activities. No person is coming forward to work in the areca orchards citing tick bite. Let the leaders visit the area and get to see what is happening in the region. It is not the time for politics but to address the fear of people.”

Similarly, the KFD outbreak has also affected the attendance in the schools in the region. For over a fortnight, the schools are witnessing a poor turn out. Karibasappa, an assistant teacher at Aralagodu Higher Primary School, said, “Parents refuse to send their wards to the school. Most of them have to walk through the forest and they fear that they could be bitten by the ticks. Our repeated efforts to convince parents have failed. ”