Centre asks states to declare black fungus an epidemic, report every case
The Union Health Ministry stated that the infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID-19 patients.
NEW DELHI: The Centre has asked states to notify mucormycosis, a deadly fungal disease being reported in many Covid patients during or after the infection, under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, making it mandatory for hospitals to report its every single case.
In a letter written to states on Wednesday, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry, said that all government and private health facilities along with medical colleges should follow guidelines issued by the ministry in ICMR on screening, diagnosis, and management of mucormycosis, also called black fungus disease.
The Centre also said that it should be mandatory for all these facilities to report all suspected and confirmed cases of the disease to the health department in the states through district level chief medical officers and subsequently to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme of the Health Ministry.
Rajasthan, on Wednesday, had become the first state to do so already even before the nudge by the Centre, after recording over 100 cases of the disease, which is fatal for nearly 50% patients and causes severe damage to the brain, face, lungs, and eyes in others.
In most states in India, the disease is being reported in alarming numbers in Covid patients during or after the infection, as it gets triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically-ill coronavirus patients, in order to suppress hyperactive immune response.
It is also being seen in Covid patients who are put on oxygen support through liquid medical oxygen cylinders or oxygen concentrators, probably due to impure oxygen—contaminated with mucor -- reaching the lungs because of non-adherence to safety measures.
Doctors believe that the Covid patients with the history of diabetes or those with compromised immunity are particularly susceptible to this disease that often needs immediate advanced surgery to cure the damaged body part.
Removal of the eye in its patients is also often required in order to save life when the eye socket gets infected.
The problem in many states has worsened due to shortage of amphotericin B, a crucial drug injected to treat some serious fungal diseases. Owing to its acute scarcity and skyrocketing demand, the Centre has started allocating it to states through a quota system since the beginning of this month.
The Centre has said that five more companies, in addition to six which are currently manufacturing the drug, have been given approval to make amphotericin B while some Indian firms have also placed orders for the import of 5 lakh vials of the medicine.