- One zoonotic illness where spillover events appear to have increased, resulting in recurring outbreaks, is Kyasanur forest disease (KFD) or monkey fever.
- The illness is named after Kyasanur forest in the Western Ghats, where it originated.
- It is a haemorrhagic fever borne by the tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera.
- It has a fatality rate of 3-5 per cent.
- It causes acute febrile hemorrhagic illness in humans and monkeys especially in southern part of India.
- The disease is caused by highly pathogenic KFD virus (KFDV) which belongs to member of the genus Flavivirus and family Flaviviridae.
- It was first identified in 1957 after an outbreak in a Kyasanur forest village in Shivamogga district of Karnataka
Why the disease is spreading?
- Growing conflicts between humans and monkeys, particularly bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) that is highly susceptible to KFD virus.
- Villages in the district are surrounded by either monoculture plantations, degraded forests, or natural forests.
- Conflicts with macaques are common in areas with mosaics of monoculture plantations, specifically acacia farms, or where agricultural land has increased in recent decades.
- Macaques started invading villages only with the decline in native fruit-bearing species in the forests.
- Habitat loss is the root cause of the increase in human-macaque conflicts as well as KFD outbreaks.
- Ecological restoration of degraded forests seems to be the only sustainable and ethical solution to mitigate the situation.
- This may be attained by reconnecting wildlife corridors and forest fragments, which in turn will minimise human-wildlife conflict.
- In plantations, mature trees can be periodically removed in patches and native fruit trees be planted to restore the habitat.
- With time, entire plantations can be converted into native forests, addressing the problems of macaque conflict and KFD.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB