Patna: A day after Bihar officially reported 5,871 COVID-19 cases, its lowest tally in a month, a new challenge is posing a serious threat. Instances of the 'black fungus' (Mucormycosis) have been detected in more than 140 patients – who had earlier contracted COVID-19 – in the state over the past week and four have died after being infected.
With COVID-19 cases officially decreasing by the day in the state, the government is worried about the growing number of black fungus cases.
According to Health Department officials, 31 new patients with the black fungus were reported on Thursday in the state. As per official records, 26 such patients were treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Patna while five were treated at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) in Patna."Seven serious patients were admitted to AIIMS Patna for treatment while 19 had mild symptoms of the black fungus and were sent back to their homes after being given medicines.Only one serious patient was admitted to IGIMS for treatment and four with mild symptoms were sent back to their homes," an official said.
A total of 34 black fungus cases were detected at AIIMS and IGIMS on Wednesday and 20 such cases were detected on Tuesday in Patna.
Special treatment is being provided to those diagnosed with the black fungus at AIIMS and IGIMS. "What is concerning is that black fungus cases are increasing and some infected patients are seriously ill,” said Manish Mandal, the Medical Superintendent at IGIMS.
Mandal said that in most cases the patients recovering from COVID-19 had been found to be afflicted with the black fungus. Mucormycosis attacks the sinuses and spreads, affecting the facial bones, eyes and then the brain.
The fear of the infection is growing among thousands of COVID-19 recovered persons and hundreds of patients undergoing treatment in hospitals.
Four patients infected by the fungus have died so far, including a woman in Vaishali district, a youth in Bhagalpur district, a woman in Kaimur district and an old man in Muzaffarpur district.
It has also been reported that those infected by the black fungus are consulting private hospitals in Patna for treatment despite the fact that the government has arranged treatment for it at AIIMS and in IGIMS.
The Health Department has taken serious note of the infection in the state and has supplied Liposomal Amphotericin B injections to all government-run medical colleges and hospitals.
State Health Minister Mangal Pandey said that the government was fully aware of the seriousness of the infection and has alerted all districts to control its spread by detecting and treating such patients.
Meanwhile, the state government has been celebratory in its tone while claiming that COVID-19 cases are declining in Bihar. Official active cases stood at 54,406 on Thursday, nearly 60,000 down from about 1,15,000 last month. This appears to be the result of the lockdown imposed in the first week of May in the state. The state recovery rate has increased to 91.32% from 77% last month. The positivity rate, too, has declined to 4.4% from 14% earlier this month, as per official figures.
As per the official figures by the state health department,1,40,070 samples were tested on Thursday and 5,871 cases were reported.
However, reports suggest that rural areas are fully under the grip of the novel coronavirus this year, unlike during the first wave last year. The virus has already claimed lives in hundreds of villages on a daily basis but the news is either being suppressed or is hardly getting any space.
Due to a lack of testing facilities and basic health infrastructure in rural areas, most people with COVID-like symptoms (high fever, cough, weakness and breathlessness) have been diagnosed with typhoid or viral flu in village after village by local self-proclaimed doctors. It is why hundreds of COVID-19 patients have been wasting several days in villages before reaching out for proper treatment in Patna's hospitals or in nearby areas, by which time it is often too late as their oxygen saturation level is below 70, or even 60, in some cases.
A sense of fear has been growing in rural Bihar since earlier this week about the virus spreading fast, as reports of more and more deaths pour in day after day. People in villages across the state are gripped by fear, more so because of lack of medical facilities. The virus had largely left rural areas untouched last year.
With COVID-19 cases rising and spreading in rural areas, the state government has still not initiated special measures for thousands of migrant workers who have returned to their native villages or are still returning by buses, trucks and other vehicles.