Since January 1 this year, two people have died due to Kyasanur forest disease (KFD), a viral infection, in Karnataka. The number of deaths reported due to the disease since 1956, when it was detected in the forests of Shivamogga district, exceeds 560. The number of cases in Malnad districts (Shivamogga, Uttara Kannada and Chikkamagaluru) has been increasing, which has forced the Health authorities and the Department of Family Welfare to take measures to contain its spread. Since January 1, the Department of Health and Family Welfare has conducted 2,567 tests and 68 people have tested positive.
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What is KFD? The disease was first detected in the Kysanur forest area of Sorab Taluk in Shivamogga district in 1956 and was named after the region. It is also known as monkey fever, since monkeys also become infected. In fact, the death of a monkey serves as a warning of a KFD outbreak. The scientists concluded that the virus must be present in the forests of the Malnad region. It became active due to ecological changes.
The disease is transmitted through ticks. Primates that come into contact with infectious ticks contract the disease. Humans who visit the forest area, whether to earn a living, graze livestock or collect firewood, contract the disease. Normally, the transmission starts from the end of November to June. According to studies, it peaks between December and March. A blood test is done to identify if someone has KFD.
Symptoms begin to appear three to eight days after the bite of an infectious tick. Fever, red eyes, severe headache, and body pain are common symptoms. Three or four days after the onset of initial symptoms, the patient may present with gastrointestinal symptoms. In severe cases, bleeding from the nose is observed. There is no specific treatment, doctors manage symptoms and monitor vital signs daily. An attempt to use a vaccine was abandoned after studies showed it was ineffective. The ICMR is said to be in consultation with Indian Immunologicals for the development of a vaccine.
Measures to avoid contagion
The forest department distributes DEPA oil, a tick repellent, to families who have to go to the forest. The oil should be applied to exposed skin. The State Government has also decided to provide free treatment to patients.