India is facing a surge in cases of mucormycosis, or black fungus among those who suffer from COVID-19 or have recovered from it. Black fungus is a rare but dangerous fungal infection. This infection has been affecting people who have various health problems in their medical history as it reduces the ability of the person to fight environmental pathogens.
Last Friday, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan advised the public on early detection of the Mucormycosis and its management. A serious number of Black Fungus cases have been reported among coronavirus patients, particularly in Maharashtra. Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “Awareness and early diagnosis can help curb the spread of fungal infection.”
Gujarat has reported over 100 confirmed cases of Black Fungus. Whereas, Maharashtra has reported over 52 deaths due to the deadly surge of this infection. Other states like Rajasthan, Telangana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh also have been reporting cases of Black Fungus in small numbers.
On Saturday, Harayana declared Black Fungus as a notified disease in the state, which means if a patient is diagnosed with the infection in either government or private hospital, it will have to be immediately reported to the Chief Medical Officer of the District, so that necessary steps can be taken to curb the spread of the infection. This decision was taken by the Harayana government after 27 cases of the Black Fungus infection were reported in the state.
What is Mucormycosis or Black Fungus?
Mucormycosis is a fungal infection cases by a group of molds called ‘mucormycetes’. These molds exist throughout the environment and are ubiquitous in nature. This infection affects people who have health problems or those taking medications that lower the body’s ability to overcome sickness. Black Fungus affects areas from where it can be inhaled- nose/sinus/lungs. The fungus causes local infection if it enters the body through wounds or skin. It can affect the eyes and brain if it enters the body from the sinus.
What causes Mucormycosis in COVID Patients?
As per BBC reports, the Black Fungus infection can be triggered using steroids, which is a life-saving treatment for COVID patients who are critical. The steroids help in reducing inflammation in the lungs and stops damage caused by the virus in COVID patients. It can also result in compromising one’s immunity and push up their blood sugar levels. The infection enters and affects the body when it is in its most vulnerable state.
Uncontrolled blood sugar level leads to further complications of the infection in a person’s body. The infection tends to affect the eyes and leads to complete blindness. To save the patient’s life the surgeon has to make the tough decision of removing the patient’s eye. In some cases, both eyes need to be extracted to prevent any further complications.
What AIIMS Director has to say about the Black Fungus Infection
AIIMS Director, Randeep Guleria at a news briefing said, “Diabetics suffering from COVID-19 who are being given steroids have a high chance of being affected by mucormycosis infection. Mucormycosis spores are found in the soil, air, and even food. But they are of low virulence and usually do not cause infection. There were very few cases of this infection before COVID. Now numerous cases are being reported due to COVID.
“Misuse of steroids is a major cause behind this infection. Chances of fungal infection increase in the patients who are diabetic, Covid positive, and those who are taking steroids. To prevent it, we should stop the misuse of steroids,” Dr. Guleria further added.
“As COVID-19 cases are increasing, it’s of paramount importance that we follow protocols of infection control practices at hospitals. It is been seen that secondary infections – fungal and bacterial – are causing more mortality,” the AIIMS Director said.
Symptoms of Mucormycosis (Black Fungus):
- Reddish & swollen skin over nose & sinuses
- Dark scabbing in nasal cavities
- Visual problems
- Eye(s) swelling
- Facial pain
- Recurring headache
- Blood vomiting
- Persistent cough
- Altered mental status
How to prevent Black Fungus infection?
The first and foremost effective way to prevent this infection is by wearing a mask while stepping out to areas where one might come across rotting garbage or food. The next step is to wear clothes which don’t expose your skin or wounds. It is important that diabetic patients control their sugar levels and blood glucose levels.
Treatment of Mucormycosis
Intravenous anti-fungal medicines are commonly used to treat Mucormycosis, followed by oral ant-fungal medicines. In severe cases, surgery might be required.
The Government has not published national data on the Mucormycosis infection. Though it is not a major breakout yet, we must be on the safer side and take necessary measures to curb it from spreading.
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