India reports 259,551 new COVID-19 infections as states battle ‘black fungus’ epidemic
BENGALURU: India reported 259,551 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours on Friday (May 21), while deaths rose by 4,209.
Daily new cases were down by about 16,000 compared to the previous day, while the number of deaths increased.
The country’s infection tally stands at 26.03 million, with a death toll of 291,331, health ministry data showed.
States across India ordered emergency measures on Thursday to counter a surge in the rare deadly “black fungus” infection among coronavirus patients.
Gujarat and Telangana states declared epidemics of mucormycosis, while New Delhi and other major cities have opened special wards to treat thousands of cases of the infection.
Black fungus is caused by organisms called mucormycetes, which can enter the body through breathing or skin injuries.
The infection kills more than 50 per cent of sufferers within days. In some cases, eyes and upper jaws are removed by surgeons to save lives.
India normally deals with fewer than 20 cases a year, but the infection has become a new threat from the COVID-19 wave that has killed 120,000 people in six weeks.
Some doctors say there has been panic use of steroids to combat COVID-19, which has helped the spread of black fungus.
“Indiscriminate use of steroids to treat COVID-19 patients should be avoided,” Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Wednesday.
Other doctors say the unhygienic conditions in some hospitals when putting coronavirus patients on oxygen cylinders has allowed black fungus to take hold.
COVID-19 patients with diabetes and a weakened immune system are particularly prone to attack.
Many of the drugs used to fight the coronavirus suppress the body’s immune system that would normally ward off a fungal infection.