Assam strengthens health care infrastructure amid surging COVID-19 cases, black fungus threat



GUWAHATI: To deal with the second wave of the pandemic, Assam is continuously increasing the number of oxygen-supported beds, and it also has enough stock of Remdesivir vials, state Health Minister Kesab Mahanta said on Friday.

Addressing a press conference here, Mahanta said, there are about 13,863 beds for treatment of coronavirus patients in government hospitals and COVID-19 Care Centres (CCCs), including 787 ICU beds, 11,154 isolation beds, and 1,922 oxygen-supported beds, Mahanta said.

Highlighting that 2,520 isolation beds are already functional in Greater Guwahati, the minister said, CCCs with approximately 3,000 beds are being set up at the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (438 beds), Assam Engineering College (1,000), Delhi Public School (869) and Girijanand Institute (704).

These new CCCs will be made operational in the next seven days.

Arrangements for another 200 ICU beds will be made in Gauhati Medical College Hospital car parking area, 56 within the GMCH and 24 in Kalapahar, the minister added.

Additional oxygen-supported beds have been created in Moinakhurung (70 beds), Jagiroad old HPC (60 beds), Haryana Bhawan (200), and Maheswari Bhawan 200.

Construction of a 300 bed COVID Hospital by the DRDO at Sarusajai here is underway and it is expected to be functional by the first week of June, Mahanta informed.

Noting that mandatory institutional isolation of all COVID-19 patients in the 50+ age group has started, he said, 2,245 such patients had been kept in the facilities till Thursday.

On the subject of Remdesivir, an experimental investigational drug sometimes used to treat COVID-19, the health minister said the state is procuring Remdesivir injections from various sources and the state has a stock of over 16,000 vials.

“With the current stock, we can manage for about 10 days.”

“We have provided 8,126 vials of Remdesivir to private hospitals at the government rate of Rs 1,568, per dose, which is almost Rs 1,000 less than market rate,” Mahanta said.

Informing that the government also has a limited stock of Tocilizumab injections, which is being used judiciously, he said efforts to procure 2-DG anti-viral drug, developed by DRDO, has been initiated by the state government.

On the availability of medical oxygen, the minister said though the current utilisation of the live-saving gas is 80 MT per day against its daily production at about 70 MT, 30-45 MT of medical oxygen is being brought from outside Assam daily.

“We are keeping sufficient stock as well. Once we keep the cases under control, there will be no shortage of oxygen in the state,” Mahanta said.

The state has 13 medical oxygen plants, including three at GMCH, two each in Jorhat, Silchar, and Assam Medical College and Hospitals, one each at Barpeta, Tezpur, and Diphu MCHs, besides Mohendra Mohan Choudhary Civiil Hospital in Guwahati.

Through the central government, Assam has received from the UK a modern oxygen generating plant to be set up in Chirang district and 240 oxygen cylinders, 180 oxygen concentrators from the US government, 290 oxygen BiPAP machines from Australia, 30 ventilators from Canada, and four defibrillators from Myanmar.

The state’s Health and Family Welfare Department on Friday released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to contain the possible spread of the disease.

The Union Health Ministry has already appealed to all the states and Union Territories to declare black fungus as a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897.

The order issued by the principal secretary to the Assam governments Health Department said, a large number of similar cases have been reported from other parts of the country, and there is a likelihood of an increase in the number of such cases in the future.

“In order to screen, diagnose and manage such cases of black fungus in COVID patients, the Standard Operating Procedure is notified with immediate effect,” it said.

The SOP contains details about symptoms, management of COVID-19 patients with black fungus infection and advisory for the general public, and treatment protocols.

Elaborating on black fungus infection, it said, mucormycosis is a rare serious fungal infection caused by ungus Mucor.

People can be infected with black fungus by coming in contact with its spores in the environment.

It can also develop in the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, abrasion, burn, or other types of skin trauma, the advisory said.

People who have uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, and immune-suppressed patients, those in ICU for a prolonged period, people with HIV or malnutrition, and those on steroids for medical cause need to be careful if they develop nasal blockage, facial or cheekbone pain, blackish and foul-smelling nasal discharge, congestion or redness and swelling of eyes and nose, and difficulty in vision.

The other symptoms are headache and fever, seizures, altered mental state, cough, and blood-stained sputum, shortness of breath with worsening respiratory problem, toothache, loosening of teeth, and blackish discoloration in the skin with Necrosis (death of cells or tissue through disease or injury).

The guidelines issued to prevent black fungus in COVID-19 patients suggested better control of the sugar levels during COVID with or without steroids, judicious use of steroids observing correct timing, correct dose and correct duration, use of clean or sterile water for humidifiers during the oxygen therapy.

People were urged to use masks while visiting dusty construction sites, wear shoes, long trousers, long sleeve shirts, and gloves while handling garden soil, moss or manure, maintain personal hygiene and seek immediate medical attention in case they develop the symptoms.

The death of a 27-year-old COVID-19 recovered patient due to black fungus in Assam on Wednesday was the first such case reported in the northeastern state.

Assam reported 81 fatalities due to COVID-19 on Friday, taking the death toll to 2,588, while 6,066 fresh cases of infection pushed the tally to 3,59,640, the National Health Mission (NHM) said in a bulletin.

Currently, the state has a total of 52,816 active cases.

The bulletin said that 4,987 patients were cured of coronavirus during the day, taking the total number of recovered people to 3,02,889 in the state.

Of the fresh fatalities, 24 were reported from Kamrup Metropolitan district which primarily comprises the Guwahati city and seven each in Dibrugarh and Sivasagar.

The remaining deaths were registered in several other districts.

The NHM said that 1,347 more COVID-19 patients have died till now, but the government’s Death Audit Board has not included them in the tally of deaths as they had other ailments too.

With the detection of 6,066 patients against the testing of 1,03,158 samples on Friday, Assam has reported a positivity rate of 5.88 per cent for the day, it said.

The state had reported a record 6,573 coronavirus positive cases on Thursday against the testing of 1,02,684 samples.

Out of the new cases, the highest 907 patients were detected from the state capital, followed by 436 in Cachar, 433 in Nagaon and 420 in Kamrup.

The NHM said that a total of 36,64,739 doses of vaccines have been administered so far in the state and the figure includes 7,67,297 second doses.

It said that altogether 45,339 people were vaccinated on Friday, down from 50,488 shots on Thursday.

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