Sunday, December 4, 2022

'Black fungus' hitting COVID-19 patients becomes epidemic-like in 10 Indian states

'Black fungus' hitting COVID-19 patients becomes epidemic-like in 10 Indian states

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – 'Black fungus', a rare fungal disease hitting COVID-19 patients, has taken the shape of epidemic in 10 states.

Mucormycosis, or 'black fungus' usually infects people whose immune system has been compromised, causing blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.

Doctors believe that the use of steroids to treat severe COVID-19 could be causing the rash of cases because those drugs reduce immunity and push up sugar levels.

Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said in a letter to state governments that mucormycosis had emerged as a new challenge for COVID-19 patients on steroid therapy and those with pre-existing diabetes.

"This fungal infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality among COVID-19 patients," he said in the letter.

He gave no numbers of the Mucormycosis cases nationwide but Maharashtra, one of the states worst hit in the second wave of coronavirus infections, has reported 1,500 cases of it.

Agarwal asked state governments to declare it as a 'notifiable disease' under the Epidemics Act, meaning they have to identify and track every case.

But with hospitals and crematoria overflowing and the health system overwhelmed, it is widely accepted that the official figures grossly underestimate the real impact of the epidemic, with some experts saying infections and deaths could be five to 10 times higher.

The second wave has penetrated deep into the countryside and the additional burden of mucormycosis has hit a rural health system ill-equipped to cope.