KFD, which is, like COVID-19, caused by a zoonotic virus, claims four lives in Shivamogga

Published : April 03, 2020 11:36 IST

SHIVAMOGGA, KARNATAKA 19. 03. 2020. Members of the KFD Janajagruti Okkuta submitting a memorandum to K.B. Shivakumar (fourth from left), Deputy Commissioner, in Shivamogga on March 19. Photo: VAIDYA

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, another zoonosis—disease transmitted to humans from animals—has already taken four lives this year in Shivamogga district in Karnataka. On March 30, Devdas, a 65-year-old farmer from Hosabeedu village in Tirthahalli taluk of Shivamogga, died of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD). The disease, popularly known as Monkey Fever, recurs annually in the forests of the Western Ghats. Two days earlier, a 55-year-old woman, Gulabi, from the same taluk had died of the fever. According to sources, more than 100 people have been identified as having been afflicted with KFD in Tirthahalli taluk alone this year.

KFD is an anthropod-borne virus disease which was first identified in 1957 in the region around Sagara in Shivamogga. Over the past 60 years, KFD is recorded to have killed close to 550 people. With a fatality rate of around 5 per cent and its regular occurrence, KFD has been the bane of communities of people living in and along the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Humans who enter forests after the monsoon season are vulnerable to the virus through a tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera, that carries the virus. One bite from this tick that lurks in the dense undergrowth can cause this virus to enter the body bringing with it symptoms of acute distress like headache, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. While most patients recover after several days of convalescence, the ones who die are usually the elderly with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes. The geographical range of KFD has spread over the past decades along the entire stretch of the Western Ghats and is linked with increased human encroachment into forests.

There have been several demands by people living close to the forests in Shivamogga district to set up a dedicated research centre for the disease as well as monitor the deaths of monkeys closely as this if the precursor to the spread of the disease to humans. On March 19, members of the KFD Janajagruthi Okkoota even staged a protest in Shivamogga to draw attention of the authorities to their demands.

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