PANAJI: Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), popularly referred to as monkey fever , killed 45-year-old Gulabi Gawas in Goa on Monday, where 76 people have tested positive for the disease .
KFD spreads from mice, squirrels, shrews and monkeys to humans by the bite of an infected tick and through contact with a sick or dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been reported.
Three deaths were reported in 2016, when more than 200 people had tested positive. for the disease a massive campaign by the health department in Goa was unleashed since the start of this year only. The drive was centered on getting people vaccinated to safeguard them from catching the disease.
“Survival depends on the person’s immunity and the stage at which treatment is sought. With most outbreaks concentrated in the interiors of the state where awareness towards diseases is limited, most people seek treatment at an advanced stage of the disease,” said Dr Utkarsha Betkikar, epidemiologist with Goa Health services.
Gawas was from the remote Sattari taluka in Goa. “She died due to acute pneumonia and severe breathing problems as a result of the KFD,” said Dr Betkikar. “Since it is spread by ticks that infest monkey carcasses, farmers and tribals involved in cashew farming, where monkey population is high, are at the maximum risk,” said Dr Betkikar.
Tourists exploring the interiors of the western ghats are also at risk.
A vaccine against the virus protects against infection. ”Many farmers give up on their cashew harvest due to the fear of monkey fever. I would request them all to come forward and get themselves vaccinated,” said Goa tourism minister Manohar (Babu) Asganokar.
A big hurdle to mass immunisation is that three doses of the vaccine have to be given over five years.
“Usually, people get one or two doses and then move to another farm, which also makes it difficult to keep a record. Even the woman who died had got two doses,” said Dr Betkikar.
Monkey fever in Goa (2015 to date)
People tested: 422