K. Sudhakar. (Photo: Twitter@mla_sudhakar). Image Source: IANS News

Bengaluru, May 17 : Alarmed by the growing number of Covid patients contracting black fungus in the state, an expert panel has been set up to study the infection, state Health Minister K. Sudhakar said on Monday.

"We have set up an expert panel to study black fungus infection in Covid patients after their recovery from the virus," Sudhakar said after opening a treatment facility at the state-run Bowring Hospital in the city.

Noting that black fungus or Mucormycosis has been recognised as a fungal infection, Sudhakar said measures would be taken to contain its spread after the panel submits its report with recommendations.

"The panel has been set up to ascertain the cause of the infection in patients post Covid treatment," said Sudhakar, a medical doctor by profession.

The fungal infection is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.

As black fungus is a post-Covid complication, those who are diabetic and use steroids are vulnerable to contract it.

"As patients undergoing organ transplantation or having immune-compromised conditions like HIV are prone to contract the fungal infection, they have to be careful to prevent themselves from getting infected," Sudhakar said.

The fungus enters the human body through a nasal cavity with low immunity and affects the eye-sight. Such patients should be treated immediately to prevent the spread of the fungus in the body.

"We have learnt that water used in humidifiers in hospitals where Covid patients are under treatment is causing the infection," noted the minister.

At Bowring hospital, patients with black fungus are given Amphotericin injection. A patient needs 40-60 vials to recover from it, the state health department said in a statement.

The health department is setting up a dedicated facility at the state-run hospitals in six cities, including Mysuru, Shivamogga, Kalaburagi, Hubballi, Mangaluru and Belagavi, to treat patients with this fungal infection.

The minister also warned Covid patients under self-isolation at home against taking steroids on their own without a doctor's prescription, as they can cause fungal infection.

In a related development, Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan said the state government is exploring collaboration with global alliance partners to procure critical drugs like Amphotericin B to treat black fungus, and Remdesivir and Tocilizumab for treating Covid patients.

"The need of the hour is to collaborate for procuring drugs to treat Covid patients amid the pandemic's second wave," Narayan said at a virtual interaction with global innovation alliance partner countries.

Narayan, also a medical doctor by profession who heads the state's Covid task force, said balancing health with social and economic concerns is a huge challenge amid lockdowns and other Covid-induced restrictions.

"Cross-country learning will help all the stakeholders to deal with the situation arising out of the once-in-a-century pandemic like Covid-19," he added.

Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the US are among the global alliance partner countries.

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