Health Dept. keeps monkey fever at bay

Members of the Rapid Response Team undergoing training on tackling Kyasanur Forest Disease, at the Viral Diagnostic Laboratory in Shivamogga.

Members of the Rapid Response Team undergoing training on tackling Kyasanur Forest Disease, at the Viral Diagnostic Laboratory in Shivamogga.  

Extensive field-level vigilance in affected areas ensures no cases were reported since July this year

A slew of preventive measures taken by the Department of Health and Family Welfare against Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), also known as monkey fever, has paid off as no positive cases have been reported in the State since July this year.

In the KFD season of 2018-19 (from September 2018 to June 2019), 14 people died in Karnataka because of this viral infection. Of them, 12 were from Shivamogga district. Of the 440 positive cases reported during this period, 341 were from Shivamogga district.

Kiran S.K., Deputy Director of Viral Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL), Shivamogga, the main arm of the department in tackling KFD, told The Hindu that to prevent the outbreak this year, field-level vigilance was stepped up from June itself in 14 affected taluks spread over eight districts.

He said that coordination between the Health and Family Welfare, Animal Husbandry, and Forest Departments was imperative for successful on-field vigilance in tackling the outbreak as it involves identifying dead monkeys in forests, collecting their blood samples and viscera for tests, and disposing of the carcass in a safe manner. In all the affected districts, a Rapid Response Team (RRT) comprising senior officials of these departments were formed for better coordination.

The RRT members were trained at VDL. At the training session, they were apprised of the lifecycles of KFD virus and the ticks that spread them, methods of collection of ticks, protocols to be followed for vaccination, and the existing treatment procedures. The RRT members were also taken to the affected villages, Mr. Kiran said.

To dispel wrong notions prevailing among the people that KFD vaccine would result in side-effects, information and communication activities as well as special gram sabhas were held in affected areas. The artists of Jogi Pada, a folk art of Malnad region, were used for the awareness campaign. Owing to these efforts, people have been taking vaccines voluntarily, he said. Mr. Kiran said that in the vaccination drive of this season, a target was set to cover 5.17 lakh people in affected areas. Of this, 2.8 lakh people have already been vaccinated.

The blood samples of persons with symptoms of KFD — high fever, ache in joints and bleeding from nose and gums — are being tested at VDL. Since August this year, all the 803 blood samples drawn from persons having these symptoms have tested negative for KFD. The viscera of 18 monkeys that died in the forest and the ticks collected from 300 different locations were subjected to laboratory investigations during this period and they have also tested negative.

The field stations of KFD in Sagar, Honnavar, and Belthangady were strengthened by appointing one entomologist, two insect collectors, and three multi-purpose workers for each of them to ensure better vigilance against the disease.

He said that the intense on-field vigilance has succeeded in prevention of a previous year-like massive outbreak.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 2:05:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/health-dept-keeps-monkey-fever-at-bay/article30427741.ece

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