Kyasanur Forest Disease (Monkey Fever): Causes, Symptoms and Prevention


Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), popularly known as Monkey Fever, is a viral disease that is native of Shivamogga district located quite close to the Western Ghats in Karnataka, India. This disease claims to have affected 341 people so far this year. Also, it is adversely affecting tourism in the Western Ghats. So, what causes this disease? What symptoms do you see in humans? On the wake of this disease, let us learn more and guard ourselves against becoming a victim to this medical condition.

Monkey Fever

What is Monkey Fever?

Monkey Fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever caused by a virus that belongs to the family Flaviviridae. The virus is carried by ticks. Humans get infected when such ticks bite them. This condition is hemorrhagic in nature because, in subsequent stages of infection, you will see bleeding in the throat, stomach, intestines, nasal cavity and gums. We can see a 3% to 10% fatality rate, that is, the disease is affecting at least 400 to 500 people every year.

Kyasanur Forest Disease is a unique disease as it occurs only along the western ghats. It was first detected in 1951 when many monkeys died owing to this fever. This is the reason behind the name ‘Monkey Fever’.

This medical condition was limited to the Western Ghats for seven decades. However, it has spread centripetally along the Ghat section to adjacent states including Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. It is also found that humans are infected while moving the dead bodies of infected monkeys. These cases have been reported in Bandipur area.

Monkey Fever Causes and Transmission

The first thing that comes to our mind is – how does monkey fever spread? Well, it is spread by a type of hard ticks. The vector or the carrier of Kyasanur Forest Disease virus (KFDV) is the Haemaphysalis spinigera, which is also known as a forest tick.

This tick carries KFDV throughout its lifetime. The virus is also transferred to the offsprings when the infected ticks lay eggs. In addition to monkeys, the virus can also be carried by rodents, shrews, birds, and mammals like cattle, sheep and goat. When humans get in touch with these carriers or when an infected tick bites them, they get infected.

Generally, local farmers, tourists, hunters who scale the western ghats are prone to this illness. Also, there are no data that suggests a human-to human transmission of the disease.

The western ghats serve a perfect ecology for the ticks. Shimoga and the surrounding areas are moist the entire year. They have a diverse type of plantation like cultivated land, grasslands, a large stretch of forest area, which serves as the best place for the growth of the monkey population. You can’t find an area like this anywhere in India. So, KFD is regularly found in the western ghats and the surrounding areas.

Symptoms of Monkey Fever

Once you are infected, it takes up to 3 to 8 days for the symptoms to show up. The initial symptoms may include:

  • Sudden chills
  • Fever
  • Severe headaches

Three to four days later, you may experience the following symptoms.

  • Muscle pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low platelet counts
  • Low red blood cells and white blood cell count
  • Severe bleeding

It takes one to two weeks for a patient to recover without any complications. But, sometimes, the symptoms recur in some cases. Studies show that while 80% of patients recover, 20% of them start showing biphasic symptoms. Few of these patients even start showing severe neurological or haemorrhagic symptoms. That is, they start having too much bleeding or show mental disturbances accompanied by severe headaches, tremors and vision deficits.

Monkey Fever Treatment

A specific treatment dedicated to KFD patients has not been found yet. However, when you notice early symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor immediately. This way, they will have a chance to treat you before the condition worsens. The basic treatment involves keeping the patient hydrated at all times. In addition, doctors will take precautionary measures to prevent bleeding and neurological symptoms from aggravating.

Monkey Fever Prevention and Vaccination

Taking preventive measures can help you keep a check on Monkey Fever spread. Here are some easy ways of preventing the spread.

  • If you detect early symptoms of the disease, it is advisable to get diagnosed immediately. Prompt disease management will help circumvent fatalities.
  • We must regularly keep a tab of any unusual deaths of monkeys in endemic or non-endemic areas.
  • Identifying tick hotspots using regular tick mapping and surveillance techniques can help us kill them at the roots.
  • Spraying insecticides up to 50 meters around the spot where monkey death was detected can help too
  • In case you are required to go into the forest, make sure to apply tick repellant like NN-Diethyl-m-Toluamide (DEET) and Dimethyl phthalate (DMP). In addition, make sure to cover yourself from head to toe with proper pieces of clothing.
  • Controlled burning of dry bushes and leaves in and around the forest and human habitations will reduce habitats for the ticks

Government is taking action on vaccinating people to curb the disease spread. The monkey fever vaccine has to be taken in two dosages with a gap of a month by anyone who is 7 to 65 years of age. Next, you must take the booster dose to make the vaccine effective. However, it is found out that the vaccine has not been effective since there have been reports of people getting infected even after being vaccinated. It has also been found that the vaccine cannot be of any help once a person gets infected.

Dos and Don’ts of Monkey Fever

The National Centre for Disease Control has compiled a list of dos and don’ts that may help you stay away from this deadly disease.

Dos Don’ts
Report unusual monkey deaths to forest officials or health department Never use dried leaves and bushes for fodder or bedding for livestock from infected area
Before entering a forest, cover yourself fully and apply DMP on exposed skin Never touch the carcasses of a dead monkey with bear hands
After returning from forest, wash yourself and clothes with hot water and soap Never try to kill an infected tick by squeezing it in between your fingers
Educate everyone around you of the disease Don’t go to any area where the KFD was reported in the past
Control the tick growth in your livestock

News on Monkey Fever

Fear of KFD Hits Shivamogga Tourism

– September 24, 2019

Jog falls, being the most attractive spot for all the tourists making their way to Shivamogga, has recently seen a drastic decline in the number of visitors. The reason behind this is heavy rainfall and Monkey Fever. 2018 saw 24,55,150 tourists visiting the district but by August 2019, the number was down to 14,96,203 tourists. Even the average monthly tourist arrival has seen a decline from 2,04,595 in 2018 to a mere 1,87,025 in 2019.

There were 12 reports of deaths due to KFD from November 2018 following which the visitors were barred from visiting Sharavati Wildlife Sanctuary. Nature camp in Muppane and trekking activities in the Sharavathi river backwater region and sanctuary limits have been banned too.

Shivamogga begins Training for Response Teams in the Wake of KFD

– September 23, 2019

Because of the recent deaths due to the Monkey Fever, Government has started to train a special team called Rapid Response Teams (RRT). Each district will have an RRT comprising of the District Health Officer, District Surveillance Officer, District Malaria Prevention Officer, an epidemiologist, a senior microbiologist, an entomologist and a Deputy Director of Animal Husbandry.

Reports say that a three-day training was held in Shivamogga for teams from six districts so far. It was held from Sept 19 to 21. The training included an introduction to the life cycle of viruses and ticks, protocol related to treatment and vaccination procedures, surveillance. Fieldwork included a visit to the affected village, vaccination camps and interaction with the recovered people.


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