The Jammu and Kashmir government has imposed a blanket gag on the dissemination of unauthorised information about Mucormycosis, aka Black Fungus, while it declared the highly lethal disease as an epidemic.
The gag was ordered at a time when the first case of casualty caused by Black Fungus this year was reported last week.
A 41-year-old patient died due to Mucormycosis in Jammu on 21 May while at least one “strong suspect” was admitted at Government Dental College, Srinagar.
Earlier, The Kashmir Walla had exclusively reported that at least three patients had succumbed to Black Fungus last year while the administration had kept the cases under the wrap.
In the order — undersigned by Sajad Amin Shah Additional Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department — the government ordered that “no person/ institution or organization will use any print/ electronic or any other form of media for Mucormycosis without prior permission from Director Health Services, Jammu/ Kashmir.”
Without specifying the ambit of its gag order, the government has left enough room for the inclusion of media coverage on Black Fungus. As per the order, in possession of The Kashmir Walla, the government has threatened to book an individual under criminal charges for non-compliance with the gag.
The Director Health Services, Jammu and Kashmir, will constitute district-level Committees headed by Chief Medical Officer of the concerned district, including specialists of Internal Medicine, Ophthalmology, ENT, and Epidemiologist, “to review any disobeying by the person/ institution or organization of the notification or any order issued under these regulations”.
“If disobeying is proved, a notice would be issued by the Chief Medical Officer of the concerned district against such person institution organization, indicating the offence/ irregularly conducted as per this notification,” the government noted in the order, added that the person/institution/organisation will be given a chance of reply. The reply will be reviewed by the aforementioned District Committee.
As per the order, “if reply is not received within stipulated time of receipt of the notice or if the reply is found unsatisfactory by the Committee and it is confirmed that the person/ institution or organization has disobeyed regulations, the Chief Medical Officer of concerned district will take necessary action against the delinquent person/ institution or organization as per Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.”
Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order, under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.