Monkey Fever: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Monkey fever is a serious viral infection that can affect both monkeys and humans who are exposed to infected ticks or monkeys in certain forested areas of India. The disease is also known as Kyasanur forest disease (KFD), after the place where it was first discovered in 1957. Monkey fever can cause high fever, bleeding, and neurological problems, and can be fatal if not treated promptly. Here is what you need to know about monkey fever, how it spreads, how it is diagnosed and treated, and how it can be prevented.

How Does Monkey Fever Spread?

Monkey fever is caused by the KFD virus, which belongs to the family Flaviviridae. The virus is mainly transmitted by ticks, especially Haemaphysalis spinigera, which feed on rodents, squirrels, and monkeys . When a tick bites a human, it can inject the virus into the bloodstream. Humans can also get infected by handling sick or dead monkeys that have the virus in their tissues or fluids. However, there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission of monkey fever.

The disease usually occurs from October to June, with a peak between January and April, coinciding with the tick season .

What Are the Symptoms of Monkey Fever?

The symptoms of monkey fever usually appear after an incubation period of 3 to 8 days . They include:

  • Sudden onset of high fever with chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the nose, throat, gums, or intestines
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased platelet and blood counts
  • Neurological symptoms such as confusion, tremors, vision problems, and coma

The disease can be fatal in up to 10% of cases, especially if not treated early .

How it Is Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of monkey fever is based on clinical symptoms, epidemiological history, and laboratory tests . The laboratory tests include:

  • Hemagglutination inhibition assay (HI)
  • Complement fixation test (CFT)
  • Neutralization test (NT)
  • Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

The PCR test is preferred for early diagnosis, while the ELISA test is used for later stages of infection.

How it Is Treated?

There is no specific treatment for monkey fever, only supportive care to manage the symptoms and complications . The supportive care includes:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy to replace lost fluids and electrolytes
  • Antipyretics and analgesics to reduce fever and pain
  • Blood transfusion and clotting factors to prevent or control bleeding
  • Oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation to support breathing
  • Antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections

Early hospitalization and close monitoring are essential to improve the outcome of monkey fever .

How Can Monkey Fever Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent monkey fever is to avoid exposure to infected ticks and monkeys . This can be done by:

  • Wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, boots, gloves, and hats when visiting or working in forested areas
  • Applying insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin on clothes and skin
  • Avoiding contact with sick or dead monkeys or their tissues or fluids
  • Reporting any monkey deaths to the local health authorities
  • Disinfecting any wounds or bites with soap and water

Another important measure to prevent monkey fever is vaccination . A vaccine against KFD virus is available in India and is recommended for people aged 7 to 65 years who live in or visit endemic areas. The vaccine consists of two initial doses given 28 days apart, followed by booster doses every six months to maintain immunity.

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