In view of the increasing number of cases, the Centre on Thursday asked all states to declare mucormycosis or “black fungus" an epidemic.
The Union Health Ministry has written to states and union territories to make mucormycosis a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, stating that the infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID-19 patients.
“This fungal infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID 19 patients," Joint Secretary in the health ministry Lav Agarwal said in the letter.
The treatment of this fungal infection requires multidisciplinary approach consisting of eye surgeons, ENT specialists, general surgeon, neurosurgeon and dental maxillo facial surgeon, among others, and institution of Amphotericin-B injection as an antifungal medicine.
“All government and private health facilities and medical colleges have to follow guidelines for screening, diagnosis, management of mucormycosis," Agarwal has said in a letter to states.
According to the CDC (Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention), this rare but critical fungal infection is caused by a group of molds known as mucormycetes. These molds are present naturally in the environment. However, it affects humans when the body’s immunity system has been weakened and it is vulnerable. It affects the lungs and the sinuses following inhalation of fungal spores from the air. The fungus can also enter the body through open wounds or cuts.
“These fungi aren’t harmful to most people. However, for people who have weakened immune systems, breathing in mucormycete spores can cause an infection in the lungs or sinuses which can spread to other parts of the body," the CDC had said last year.
The CDC had also clarified that mucormycosis is not contagious. That means, it cannot transmit between people and animals. “Early recognition, diagnosis, and prompt administration of appropriate antifungal treatment are important for improving outcomes for patients with mucormycosis," the CDC had stated.
According to Dr Ajay Swaroop, Chairman, Department of ENT at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Covid-19 patients with weak immunity are more prone to this black fungal mucormycosis disease.
Rajasthan, Haryana, Telangana and Delhi have been largely affected by the diseases with considerable rise in fatalities.