COVID-Hit Maharashtra Grapples With Deadly Spread of ‘Black Fungus’

The Indian state of Maharashtra has been the worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides having the highest number of cases in the country, Maharashtra is also witnessing a rising number of cases of ‘Black Fungus’, which has blinded at least eight people.

About 52 people have died from Black Fungus, or mucormycosis, a rare but dangerous fungal infection, in the Indian state of Maharashtra since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year. 

The figures have been confirmed by senior officials in the department of health, after freshly compiled data threw up a new and rising threat in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Black Fungus is not a notifiable disease in the country, and no official data had been compiled on its incidence in Maharashtra until a rising number of people who had recovered from COVID-19 returned to hospital to be treated for the infection. 

A senior health official at the Maharashtra state department told the PTI news agency that for the first time, the state health department is compiling a list of deaths caused by Black Fungus.

On Wednesday, Maharashtra’s health minister, Rajesh Tope, said that there were 15,000 cases of Black Fungus in the state which is already battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The state will make a bid to procure 100,000 amphotericin-B antifungal injections to treat mucormycosis patients,” Tope said.

Patients with the infection, which has a very high death rate and needs specialised, inter-disciplinary treatment because the fungus can spread through the nose, eyes, and can reach the brain, will be treated on separate wards in 18 medical colleges in Maharashtra.

The civic authorities in Mumbai have set up a task-force of expert doctors who will decide the line of treatment for the disease, and all the hospitals have been told what precautionary measures they need to take to avoid the infection’s spread. The team will consist of an ENT specialist, an ophthalmologist, a microbiologist, and an anaesthetist.

On Friday, federal Health and Family Welfare minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also expressed concern over the need for early detection of Black Fungus in the time of COVID-19.

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