‘Restrict movements in forest areas where it is detected’

A technical note comprising suggestions on containing Kyasanur forest disease (KFD), a tick-borne viral disease, was recently sent to the Forest Department by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The disease, also called monkey fever, has been a cause for concern since the mid-1950s. It was detected in the Kysanur forest area of Shimoga district among the black-faced langurs and the red-faced bonnet monkeys. The note said the disease had zoonotic (animal infections transmissible to humans) potential and that forest workers and dwellers were at risk.

The virus circulates through small mammals such as rodents, shrews, ground birds and an ticks. Until 1971, the disease was endemic to Sagar, Sorab and Shikaripur taluks in Shimoga. But, it was noticed in the far-off Bandipur Tiger Reserve area two years ago. The disease was found in the Maddur range of the reserve, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Ajai Mishra, told The Hindu. However, there was no cause for worry and things were under control, Mr. Mishra said.

The note suggested that movements in the forest area where the disease had been previously reported should be restricted. Tick repellents should be used and proper protective clothing should be worn by people venturing into the forest. Mass treatment of domestic cattle was also suggested to prevent the disease from spreading. Vaccination of village residents and forest workers had proven effective.

In Shimoga district, 99 people have tested positive for the disease this year. District Health Officer Rajesh Suragihalli told The Hindu that of the 99 cases, 95 were reported in Tirthahalli taluk and four in Hosanagar taluk. There had been no deaths. He added that a total of 525 people had died of the disease so far.

First case

Dr. Suragihalli said the first positive case this year was reported on January 22. A total of 280 blood samples of people suffering from fever were sent for laboratory tests to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, of which 99 tested positive for the disease. The Department of Health and Family Welfare had maintained ample stock of medicines, he said.

The department takes up a vaccination drive against KFD in villages on the forest fringes every year in September and October.

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