After more than 200 cases of black fungus infection were found across the state, a five-member committee of mycologists formed by the Karnataka government has recommended that hospitals should use only distilled water in humidifiers and replace nasal cannulas when another patient occupies the oxygenated beds, besides giving thrust to proper sanitisation of ICUs.Mucormycosis or black fungus is a rare infection caused by exposure to mucor mould which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure and decaying fruits and vegetables. An increasing number of Covid patients in the country are contracting this infection for the past few weeks.After visiting the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Hubballi, state Health Minister K. Sudhkar told reporters that the five-member committee of mycologists was appointed two days back and it submitted its preliminary report on Friday to identify the primary source of mucormycosis infection.Till Friday, Karnataka had reported more than 200 black fungus cases, which came to light only in the aftermath of a severe spike in Covid cases across the state for the past one month.Sudhakar added that the black fungus infection is spreading across the state and to understand the reasons behind it, the committee of mycologists would soon be recommending other measures too.Quoting the preliminary report submitted by this committee, the minister said that the primary source of the infection appears to be use of tap water in humidifiers instead of using distilled water, besides improperly cleaning nasal cannulas and several other medical equipment in the ICUs.
"Using tap water in humidifiers seems to be one of the major reasons for fungal growth," he said.The minister added that black or white fungal infection was not new in this country even prior to the spread of the pandemic. This infection existed but the number of cases remained within double digits across the country, with less than 50 cases getting reported annually, he said."We appointed this committee only after witnessing a sudden jump in the number of black fungus cases, not just in Karnataka, but across the country," he said.Replying to a question about the number of cases and deaths, the minister said that in Karnataka, the number of this infection had never crossed 10 annually, but in the present scenario the state is receiving messages of 10 to 15 persons being infected with black fungus in each district, which is indeed a worrying factor."By this yardstick, we may have around 250 such cases till now," he said.He added that the committee of experts recommended thorough santisation of medical equipment before they are used on a new patient."Abuse of steroids is certainly the primary reason for the rise in black fungus cases, as indiscriminate use of steroids increases the sugar levels in the body. As patients in ICUs depend on aided breathing for a long duration, their immunity reduces considerably. Therefore, the fungal disease infects them to a degree of severity," he explained.Sudhakar also assured that all the patients getting infected by black fungus will receive free treatment."Union Minister Sadananda Gowda has assured that the required quantity of medicines will be provided to the state. Besides this, all medical, paramedic and group D workers would receive emergency case allowances too," he informed.