219 black fungus deaths reported from 13 states
There have been at least 219 deaths due to mucormycosis, according to officials in 13 states on Thursday, as the alarm around a typically rare disease grew this week, prompting the Union government to urge states to make it mandatory for all hospitals to report if they detect these cases.
The Union government told the Delhi high court there were 7,251 cases of mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, across the country.
Of these, Maharashtra, which also has had the highest Covid-19 case burden, reported the most infections at 1,500 cases and 90 fatalities with Gujarat detecting the next-highest numbers of 1,163 cases.
The issue was raised by Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
After the meeting, he said, the state government needs more supply of Amphotericin B, the medicine used in its treatment, from the Centre.
“Maharashtra faces a shortage of Amphotericin B, a key medicine required to treat mucormycosis patients, and the state needs 1.50 lakh to two lakh vials of that medicine, but has received only 16,000 from the Centre,” he said, terming the disease as the prime concern for the state now with Covid cases witnessing a sharp decline.
The infection, which some doctors have blamed on the high use of steroids to combat Covid-19, kills more than 50 percent of sufferers within days. In some cases, eyes and upper jaws are removed by surgeons to save lives.
Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Telangana became the latest to declare black fungus as notifiable disease under the epidemic diseases act, a day after Rajasthan, and following a letter from the Union health ministry suggesting so. Once a disease is categories as notifiable disease under the Epidemic Disease Act, hospitals must report it to the integrated disease surveillance programme.
Tope’s statement came on a day when the Delhi high court asked the Centre to take steps to source Amphotericin B from wherever it is available in the world.
In Gujarat, where officials told HT there were close to 1,200 cases and 61 deaths, special wards have been set up in major cities to deal with the rising cases. More than half of these cases have come in the past fortnight, said a state government official.
“A separate mucormycosis ward with 250 beds has been established in Rajkot,” said Dr RS Trivedi, Medical Superintendent of Surat Medical College.
In Madhya Pradesh, where officials said there were 575 cases and 31 deaths, lack of the anti-fungal drug was making treatment tough, doctors said.
“We are performing surgeries of eyes and jaws daily to save the life of patients but how will we control the spread without drug?” said a doctor treating a black fungus patient in Bhopal.
A patient from Jabalpur, Arpit Rai, said: “I was admitted in the hospital 26 days ago for Covid 19 treatment but now I am suffering from mucormycosis. My one eye has been infected badly and I need the injection of amphotericin B but it unavailable in Jabalpur.”
MP Health department minister Prabhuram Chaudhary said: “We are trying to get anti-fungal medicine from pharma companies in Gujarat. Soon we will get 2,000 injections.”
Two people died of mucormycosis as Bihar reported 103 cases in the last fortnight till Thursday. Among the deceased was a local doctor, who died at the Ruban Memorial Hospital, a private facility in Patna, on May 17.
On May 12, a 58-year-old man from Kaimur, died at Patna’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which has a dedicated facility for black fungus cases.
Dr Anjani Kumar, additional director, health services, Bihar, said Bihar has diverted around 14,000 vials of liposomal Amphotericin-B injection, available under the kala-azar elimination programme, for treatment.
Uttarakhand has reported 48 cases of black fungus so far, of which three infected patients have died.
Rajasthan reported over 80 cases of black fungs and many of them have been admitted in special ward in Jaipur’s Sawai Madho Singh (SMS) hospital. In Rajasthan, only 24 cases were reported in 2020. After notifying mucormycosis (black fungus) as an epidemic, the Rajasthan government on Thursday announced free treatment of the disease.
Most of the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka have reported a few cases.
(With inputs from state bureaus)