What do we know about 'monkey fever' that has claimed 9 lives in Karnataka?
The Karnataka health department said on Friday that nine deaths have been reported in Shimoga district since December 2018 due to Kyatsandra Forest Disease (KFD) — also known as "monkey fever".
Data released by the department showed that 100 positive cases have been identified in the district since 24th December. A health officer said that over 20,000 people have been vaccinated. "We have so far surveyed 374 villages", he said. The Health Department also provided DMP (dimethyl phthalate) oil to residents in the area to apply on their skin, as it is known to be a tick repellent.
Apart from the vaccination drive, Shivamogga District Surveillance Officer, Dr B S Shankarappa said that district authorities were distributing insect repellents to people, as the disease is caused by ticks.
Ticks infected with the KFD virus latch onto monkeys and transmit the virus to other ticks. Once the infected monkey dies, ticks drop from the body, creating a hotspot of infectious ticks that further spread the virus. The report said that 120 monkeys died of the disease in Shimoga.
A study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that KFD is unique to five districts (Shimoga, Chikkamagalore, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi) in Karnataka. Each year, 100-500 persons are affected by the disease between January and May. But this year, KFD seems to have arrived early.
The disease, which was initially confined to the forests of Shivamogga for several decades, has migrated; since 2013 it has been reported in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and Maharashtra, along the forests of the Western Ghats.
In Mysuru, the district health officer denied that two reported deaths were due to monkey fever. He added that their investigation revealed that one of them had died of suspected brain haemorrhage and the other of pneumonia. The mortality rate is between three and ten percent for KFD. There is no known cure for the disease.