New Delhi: The Union government has asked all states to declare mucormycosis or 'black fungus' an epidemic, which essentially means listing it under the "Epidemic Diseases Act" as a rare but potentially fatal infection. Result: All confirmed or suspected cases of black fungus, a condition seen in recovering Covid patients, have to be reported to the health ministry.
The Ministry has said people catch mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. Mucormycosis can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other types of skin trauma. It is also caused by the steroid administered in the treatment of coronaviru as has been witnessed in several cases in the national capital.
Cases of black fungus have been reported in various other parts of the country, including Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar.
Incidentally, the National Human Rights Commission has served a notice on the Health Ministry asking it to act immediately on the black fungus deaths and submit an Action Taken Report (ATR) within eight weeks on spread of this infection in the country.
It passed the order on a complaint by Supreme Court lawyer and activist Radhakanta Tripathy that neither the Centre nor the state governments are serious about the spread of Mucormycosis.
"In recent times, a new challenge in the form of a fungal infection, namely, mucormycosis has emerged in many states among COVID-19 patients, especially those on steroid therapy and deranged sugar control," Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal has said in a letter to the states.
"This fungal infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality among COVID-19 patients," he says, adding that its treatment needs a multi-disciplinary approach that includes eye surgeons, ENT specialists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons, dental facial surgeons and a special anti-fungal medicine, Amphotericin.
"All government and private health facilities and medical colleges have to follow guidelines for screening, diagnosis, management of mucormycosis," Agarwal has told states.
The disease, which can lead to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is linked to diabetes.