An outbreak of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), or monkey fever — a tick-borne viral haemorrhagic fever — has been reported in Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra. The cases have been reported from Dodamarg and Sawantwadi tehsils of the district. Since January this year, the state has seen 62 cases, and two deaths, due to the disease. This is the third year in a row when Sindhudurg district has reported a KFD outbreak.
A study by the National Institute of Virology, in 2016, helped confirm that these outbreaks were due to KFD. “These investigations have helped us adopt a KFD vaccination strategy. As many as 50,000 people have been vaccinated against the disease since January this year,” Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, told The Indian Express.
Last year, 212 cases and 12 deaths due to KFD were reported from Maharashtra, while 129 cases and seven deaths were reported the year before that. Dr D M Chavan, additional commissioner, Department of Animal Husbandry (Maharashtra), told The Indian Express that their officials received information about the death of 23 monkeys between December last year and March this year. “… The samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology and the reports are awaited,” said Chavan.
The state health, forest and animal husbandry departments have been coordinating on several measures such as fever surveillance, tick-control measures and awareness programmes. KFD was identified in 1957, when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka, and approximately 400 cases of the disease are reported every year. The disease spreads through parasitic ticks that latch on to monkeys, said health officials. Apart from vaccination, a repellent oil is also provided to avoid tick bites.
While extensive epidemiological studies have shown how KFD spreads, usually, by the end of December, the tick has transitioned into the nymph stage and is dangerous to humans and monkeys. The disease peaks from January onwards in the forests of Karnataka, Sindhudurg and Goa, said state health officials. According to experts of the National Institute of Virology, the symptoms are severe, and include fever, followed by headache that lasts between five to 12 days.