Health Dept sounds red alert over KFD outbreak

Health officials applying DMP oil to villagers in one of the villages of Thirthahalli taluk in Shivamogga district.

Aralagodu — a nondescript village in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district — has left the state health officials on their toes following the outbreak of the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD). Despite intensified vigilance, the death of four people in Sagar taluk and report of 12 people with similar symptoms in the district much before the onset of its usual outbreak season has set off panic across the Malnad districts. The forest department has banned the entry of public into the forest areas while health officials have embarked on a massive vaccination drive against the disease.

Sources in the health department revealed to DH that in less than 10 days, as many as four deaths were reported from the same village. The disease also called as ‘Monkey Fever’ was first identified in the district in 1957 and is endemic to Western Ghats region. Though KFD flares up during near summer months, the outbreak in the beginning of the winter has triggered panic as there is no permanent cure for the disease. Dr S Sajjan Shetty, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease said that the department has been working to contain the spread.

“We have received three confirmed cases of KFD, whereas in one case we could not collect samples. We were flagged about the outbreak by locals a fortnight ago when a few monkeys were found dead in the village’s vicinity. Ever since, we have been actively monitoring the situation and have stepped the vigilance activities,” he explained.

A senior health department official explained that the Aralagodu village PHC has been supplied with vaccines and other essential medical supplies to combat the outbreak. “Wherever monkeys have been found dead, health workers have been spraying malathion powder to kill the ticks — carrier of the virus. Further, people living in the 10-km radius area of the epicentre have been vaccinated against the virus with two doses and later with yet another booster dose. A separate treatment ward has been created at Sagar hospital,” revealed the official. So far, about 1,000 people have been vaccinated according to sources.

Dr Shetty explained that villagers are provided with DMP oil. “If it is imperative for villagers to go to forest for livelihood, they have been advised to apply DMP oil on their bodies covered with full sleeve clothes. They have also been advised to bathe with disinfectants upon their return,” he said. Sources confirmed that a few patients with similar symptoms are being treated at Sagar. He said of the 15 KFD cases in 2015, 13 were reported in Thirthahalli and two in Hosanagar taluk. One death was reported. Of the 24 cases in 2016, two deaths were reported and of the 34 cases in 2017, 33 were reported in Thirthahalli taluk and one in Sorab. Three deaths were reported.

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