Jun­gle virus stirs

A lesser-known vi­ral dis­ease, sim­i­lar to Ebola and dengue and so far con­fined to just five for­est dis­tricts of Kar­nataka, has re­cently been re­ported from Ker­ala and Tamil Nadu

Down to Earth - - FOREST DISEASE - M SU­CHI­TRA |

NSuresh N S, AGARATNA AND a young farmer cou­ple, live in Bandikkoppa vil­lage in Thirtha­halli taluk of Kar­nataka’s Shiva­mogga dis­trict. Their small house is sur­rounded by forests of the West­ern Ghats. In Jan­uary last year,both of them fell ill.They had thought it was flu but the fever did not sub­side even af­ter five days. “So we de­cided to visit the pri­mary health cen­tre (phc),”says Na­garatna.At the phc,they were re­ferred to the taluk gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tal, which sent their blood sam­ples to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Vi­rol­ogy (niv) in Pune. Lab tests at niv con­firmed that the cou­ple had Kyasa­nur for­est dis­ease (kfd), a vi­ral hae­m­or­rhagic dis­ease sim­i­lar to Ebola and dengue.

The cou­ple was among the 137 peo­ple who suf­fered from the dis­ease in Kar­nataka dur­ing Jan­uary-May last year. Ex­cept eight, all were from Thirtha­halli taluk. It also killed a for­est guard in the area.This is the first time since 2003 that such a high num­ber of kfd pa­tients was re­ported from the state.In 2003, over 300 cases were re­ported.

kfd is not a new dis­ease in the dis­trict. The first out­break was re­ported in March 1957 af­ter a se­ries of un­nat­u­ral deaths of mon­keys and a mys­te­ri­ous fever en­gulfed the res­i­dents of Kyasa­nur, a for­est vil­lage in Soraba taluk. Since then the state has seen fre­quent out­breaks, but the dis­ease had been re­stricted to just five dis­tricts in the West­ern Ghats (see ‘Big­ger threat’ p15).

How­ever niv direc­tor Deven­dra T Mourya says there was al­ways a sus­pi­cion that kfd might be present in other states as well.He says that niv has in the past found the an­ti­bod­ies against this pathogen in sam­ples col­lected from Gu­jarat, Ra­jasthan, Ma­ha­rash­tra,West Ben­gal,Tamil Nadu,and An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands.

Mourya’s fears have been proven right as cases of kfd have re­cently been re­ported in new ar­eas. In 2014, niv found six kfd cases among trib­als in the re­served forests of Malappuram dis­trict of Ker­ala.A tribal­man in Ne­dum­gayam re­served for­est range in

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