6 die due to Kyasanur Forest Disease or monkey disease in Karnataka

Six people have died due to Kyasanur forest disease. Two people including, 18-year-old girl Shwetha and 50-year-old Ramakka died on Saturday. Both were admitted to a private hospital in Shivamogga. In view of the disease outbreak, Bharatiya Janata Party state president BS Yeddyurappa and MLA of Sagara Haratalu Halappa rushed to the in Shivamogga and inquired about other patients’ health. Parents and relatives pleaded to Yeddyurappa for help, who in turn assured of speaking with Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy regarding compensation.

According to news reports, health authorities have initiated vaccination drives against KFD and have also advised the public to wear full-sleeved shirts and pants to protect themselves from tick bites.

What is Kyasanur Forest Disease or monkey disease?

KFD is caused by a similarly-named virus which was first identified in 1957, when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka. Since then, between 400-500 human cases per year have been reported. Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life. Monkeys are among the common hosts for KFD virus. After being bitten by an infected tick, KFD virus can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates. According to the National Centre for Disease Control, Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) is associated with sudden onset of high-grade fever, prostration, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and
occasionally neurological, haemorrhagic manifestations. The KFD virus is transmitted to man by
the bite of infected ticks. It is also known as “monkey disease/monkey fever” because of its association with monkey deaths.

Diagnosis of Kyasanur forest disease 

Kyasanur forest disease (KFD) usually presents with sudden onset of high-grade fever with chills, intense frontal headache, severe myalgia and body aches. Muscle tenderness, photophobia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are usually seen. Respiratory symptoms like persistent cough, may be
present in some cases. In a few cases, hemorrhagic symptoms may occur in early stage in the form of bleeding from the nose, gums and intestines or fresh blood in the stools. Some patients have persistent cough, with blood-tinged sputum. In severe cases ,neurological symptoms like neck stiffness, mental disturbance, coarse tremors, giddiness, and abnormality of reflexes are noted. Un-treated cases rapidly progress to convulsions, coma and death. Case fatality is 2-10%. Fatality is higher in the elderly and in patients with co-morbid conditions like – liver diseases (alcoholic) etc. It could often be mistaken for dengue,  typhoid or malaria.

Treatment for Kyasanur forest disease

No specific treatment for KFD is available. However, prompt symptomatic and supportive therapy including maintenance of hydration, hemodynamic stability and management of neurological symptoms decreases morbidity and mortality.

MLA Haratalu Halappa said, “The disease is a growing epidemic and has wreaked havoc but the government is not ready to listen to our complaints. I have written a letter to Chief Secretary too.”

Meanwhile, Health and Family Welfare Minister of Karnataka Shivanand Patil said, “I have spoken to many of our health department officials including district officers. I have heard that some monkeys are being brought from somewhere and are being left here. I have formed a committee including retired IAS and other officers. They will investigate and give reports. We will take action accordingly.”

He further added that he will speak to the Chief Minister about the compensation for those who have died because of this monkey flu.

There have been allegations that the district health department has failed to combat the deadly disease.