Black fungus cases or mucormycosis, which have been steadily growing across the country, can be prevented by stopping "irrational" use of steroids for Covid-19 treatment, the government said on Saturday.
Addressing the daily Covid-19 briefing, Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul said, "The role of steroids in mucormycosis cannot be denied. Administration of steroids beforehand, administering steroids in high doses and giving steroids for a prolonged period is irrational."
He added that the country needs to fight mucormycosis as the "disease has now taken the shape of an outbreak as it is affecting Covid-19 patients".
Paul said steroids do help in treating Covid-19 complications and it is touted as a "wonder drug", but inappropriate doses can invite the risk of black fungus.
"Covid-19 also affects diabetics and there could be additional reasons as well for mucormycosis. States have already announced measures to contain the disease and several states have declared it an epidemic. All steps are being taken to control the disease," he said at the briefing.
Paul further said mucormycosis existed before the pandemic, but it was a rare disease.
Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the health ministry, said that the government has asked five companies to augment the production of Amphotericin-B, the drug that treats black fungus.
Licences have been given to five additional manufacturers to start the production of the drug, he added.
Mucormycosis has infected at least 7,250 persons and killed at least 219 so far. The highest number of cases of the Covid-triggered fungal infection and deaths due to it has been recorded in Maharashtra, followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
The governments of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Odisha, Telangana, Assam and Delhi have declared mucormycois as a notifiable disease under Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 after a number of people were found to be infected with the disease in these states leading deaths in several cases.