Sun. Jun 13th, 2021

Punjab’s Covid Expert Group head Dr KK Talwar on Wednesday said that mucormycosis — or black fungus — cases were reported during the first wave of the pandemic also, but this time the cases have grown manifold.

“Black fungus is not a new disease. It had been reported during the first wave also. Few states like Gujarat and Maharashtra had reported mucormycosis cases in the first wave. Also, some cases were reported before Covid also.  But the number of patients falling sick with the disease is much more now. Earlier PGIMER used to get about 50 cases of black fungus in a year. But now they have got 50 cases of this fungal infection in the last one month,” Dr Talwar told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

With Punjab having reported 158 cases of the fungal disease so far, Dr Talwar said that the infection this time is much more, and was spreading due to “overzealous” doctors giving higher doses of steroids than recommended and diabetics having uncontrolled blood sugar levels. He also said that the role of the mutated virus leading to a rise in cases was also being studied.

“We were already dealing with a mutated virus strain and the second wave. Now, we also have black fungus to tackle. We are making practitioners aware of the fallout of overdose of steroids. They think that steroids are ‘raam baan’ but they do not realise that they can cause fatal diseases,” he said.

He added, “In the advisory and protocol, it is very clearly written that steroids should not be given for more than 5 to 10 days. But I see people having these medicines for many days just because the steroids give them a sense of well-being. This should not be done. I appeal to the doctors to stick to recommended doses. We are now creating awareness on a war footing. We are asking diabetics to control their blood sugar and the doctors to check overdose of steroids,” he said.

The expert said they were hopeful that with this kind of approach, they would be able to check the spread of the disease which was not contagious.

He said Punjab was much better placed than many other states as far as the number of black fungus cases were concerned. “We have much lesser number of people suffering from black fungus, when compared to say Haryana.  Look at Maharashtra, where there are 1500 cases. Gujarat also has many more cases than us. I am not justifying, but these are the facts,” he said.

Non-diabetic, non-Covid case from Patiala being studied

Dr Talwar said that they were studying a non-Covid, non-diabetic patient from Patiala, who had developed mucormycosis and his case was reported to the state government. “We have got in touch with Prof Arunaloke Chakrabarti, head of department of medical microbiology, PGIMER, to diagnose this case. We do not know whether it was diagnosed properly or not. We can only say anything about this case after a report from the expert,” Talwar said.

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