Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

KFD disease also known as Kyasanur Forest Disease is a tick-borne group B togavirus disease. It is related to tick-borne flaviviruses especially the Far Eastern tick-borne encephalitis and Omsk hemorrhagic fever. The effect of the virus lasts for about 10 days or more depending on the immunity of the person. 

KFD was first seen in 1957 in the Shimoga district of Karnataka ( a state in South India ). The KFD disease is also known as the “monkey disease” due to its association with dead monkeys. Later the KFD disease was renamed to Kyasanur Forest Disease, from where the virus was first detected. 

History

Previously this disease was found only in the Shimoga district. But presently the disease has slowly started spreading out and is now found in four districts ( North Kannada, Shimoga, South Kannada, Chikamagaloor). The disease is mainly found in the Karnataka State of India. Later further traces of this disease has been found in the cattle especially of the Kutch and Saurashtra. 

This KFD disease is somewhat rare and the largest outbreak was recorded in 1983 with 2167 cases and 69 deaths. The Karnataka government has established a surveillance system where they constantly monitor the occurrence of KFD in human beings and mortality in monkeys in the concerned areas. 

Causes

The main agent

The disease is caused due to the agent KFD virus, which is a member of the group B togavirus ( flaviviruses). These flaviviruses are responsible for causing this disease and are quite similar to the other tick-borne flaviviruses.

Main reservoirs

Rats and squirrels are the main reservoirs of this virus. The chances of the presence of this virus among bats and birds are less. Monkeys are regarded as the amplifying hosts of the virus. However, monkeys cannot be considered as the one who carries and spreads this virus as they die because of it.

Cattle provide Haemaphysalis ticks with a plentiful source of blood meal, which again leads to a population explosion among the ticks. So, cattle can be considered as the main spreader of the disease. A human being is a dead-end host and cannot be considered to take part in the transmission of the virus. 

Vectors

The virus has a very complex life cycle and involves varieties of species. About 15 species are required of the genus Haemaphysalis are associated with the transmission of the disease. KFD has also been found in soft ticks. Monkeys and human beings are generally affected in the summer months especially from January to June. 

How is KFD transmitted?

There are no researches or studies that prove the spread of KFD by human beings. The cycle mainly involves the transmission by ticks, monkeys and cattle. The infective ticks bite to spread the virus in their nymphal stages. The incubation period generally lasts between 3-8 days. 

Symptoms

The symptoms of Kyasanur Forest Disease are not so prominent. There are certain symptoms that proofs the presence of the virus in your body, especially during the acute stage.

  1. Sudden onset of fever
  2. High body temperatures
  3. Sudden development of headaches
  4. Severe myalgia
  5. Prostration ( rare )

These acute-phase symptoms last for 2 weeks. Under serious conditions, severe symptoms are also detected which include

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Haemorrhages from nose, gums, stomach and intestine.

There is also a second phase involved under rare circumstances. The symptoms that are witnessed in the second phase includes the following

  1. Mild Meningoencephalitis
  2. Fever
  3. Mental disturbances
  4. Neck stiffness
  5. Abnormal reflexes
  6. Mild tremors

Treatment

Treatment is done after detecting the presence of the KFD virus in the blood after a blood test. A vaccine is provided to the infected people which is made by the dead KFD virus. 

Prevention

We all know how prevention is always better than cure. You should always stay safe from developing this disease. 

1. Control of ticks

As KFD is a tick-borne disease, control of ticks should be done. For control of the ticks, an application can be made by power equipment to dispense carbaryl, fenthion, naled or propoxur. The spraying should be more in hot spot areas. Restriction of cattle movements should also be done in order to prevent the virus from spreading in these hot spot areas. 

2. Self-prevention

Self-prevention is the best way to protect yourself from this virus. Certain measures should be taken by individuals for protecting themselves from this disease. The self-preventive measures include.

  1. Always wear adequate clothing
  2. Use of insect repellents such as dimethyl phthalate ( DMP, DEET )
  3. Examine your body at the end of every day for ticks and remove them
  4. Keep yourselves clean
  5. Sleeping or laying on grounds should be discouraged especially in the hot spot areas

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