The Telangana State Government has declared “black fungus” — or mucormycosis — to be a notifiable disease.
In a letter to the states, Union Health Ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said “all government and private health facilities and medical colleges have to follow guidelines for screening, diagnosis, management of mucormycosis. And, make it mandatory for all these facilities to report all suspected and confirmed cases to [the] health department through [the] district-level chief medical officer and subsequently to [the] Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) surveillance system.”
Mucormycosis has become a major issue across the country in the light of India’s second wave of COVID-19. As Health Issues India recently noted
“The condition affects the sinuses (where it can cause damage to tissue in the nose or eyes), but can spread to both the lungs and brain — in these cases often proving fatal. The overall mortality rate for the condition is around fifty percent. However, in most people the presence of the fungus is little cause for concern.
“It has been determined that the use of steroids in COVID-19 patients may be the causative factor behind the sudden surge in deaths associated with the condition. These steroids help in relieving severe inflammation within the lungs of patients affected by COVID-19, thereby relieving symptoms. However, this reduces immune response as well as raises blood sugar.”
The disease is of particular concern in India due to its increased mortality rate in people with diabetes. These individuals are already at severe risk due to a heightened risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. It is for this reason that black fungus is being treated with the utmost caution by health authorities in India.
“We are making black fungus a notifiable disease under the Public Health Act. So now, we’ll know what all cases are there. Luckily, we’ve officially only nine reported cases and all are stable. Now, we’ll also get the data from private hospitals,” said Tamil Nadu health secretary J. Radhakrishna.
Currently, the overall case count for black fungus is unknown though individual states are reporting hundreds of cases. Maharashtra, for example, has reported ninety deaths with 850 individuals currently hospitalised with the condition. Given the mortality rate of around fifty percent, there is likely to be a severe death toll should the situation be allowed to escalate. As India reels from the severe toll of the second wave of COVID-19, adequately handling this additional threat becomes ever more difficult.