While the nation is left to fight the second wave of the deadly COVID-19, panic is spread amid survivors as 8 COVID-19 survivors that were infected with Black Fungus lost eyesight. As many as 40 cases of Black Fungus was reported from Surat. Off these 40 patients, 8 patients have ended up losing their eye sight which is turning into a cause of alarm.
Last year, 20 COVID-19 survivors from Delhi rushed to the city’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital complaining that they have contracted a fungal infection. Later, the situation took a deadly turn as 4 people died due to the infection and 3 people lost their eye sight. The development raised further questions regarding the post-recovery issues in COVID-19 patients. Later hospitals in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru also reported casualties due to the infection.
After the news of Black Fungus raising its infectious head broke, Indian govt’s NITI Aayog went on record dismissing the reports claiming that the fungal infection is a “big outbreak” in India. According to V.K. Paul, the fungal infection can be observed in diabetic COVID-19 survivors, but said how its not a big issue. He also assured that the Indian Health Ministry is observing the situation and that the cure for the fungal infection is available.
“The fungal infection called mucormycosis is being found in patients of COVID-19 disease. It is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. It, to a large extent, is happening to people who have diabetes. It is very uncommon in those who are not diabetic. There is no big outbreak and we are monitoring it,”
said NITI Aayog’s V.K. Paul in a press conference.
He further claimed that if diabetic patients are taking steroids or are also suffering from cancer, then the consequences can be more dire to that person. Paul also added that the fungus attacks patients who’s immunity is suppressed by COVID-19 drug compounds like dexamethasone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, dexona are used.
“All these are related compounds. When these are used, the immune system gets suppressed, even in persons who are diabetic, and this fungus attacks,” he claimed.
Although V.K. Paul’s word are reassuring, panic is spread across COVID-19 survivors in India.
What is Black Fungus?
Black Fungus is a fungal infection that is rare but fatal. The technical name for this fungal infection is mucormycosis. An alarming figure comes from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention which states that mucormycosis has a mortality rate as high as 54%. However, the number isn’t set on stone as patient’s condition, the body, and other fungus types are also variables.
Since the onset of COVID-19, mucormycosis has thrown COVID-19 survivors’ lives into a chaos and have sent them to ICU. The infection leads to blindness in among 20-30 infected people. The reason for the loss of eyesight is because the fungus ends up growing in the eye and compressing the optic nerve responsible for vision.
What are the causes of mucormycosis or black fungus?
According to CDC, the black fungus infection is caused by a group of fungi called the mucormycetes. These molds are present in places such as soil, leaves, compost, animal dung, etc, and thus makes it naturally present in human enviornment,
Since Indian populous comes in contact with several types of fungal spores on a daily basis due to pollution, it is extremely difficult to avoid mucormycetes that causes the infection.
Can I get infected by black fungus?
Although most people with a stable immune system can fight with fungal infections, people with low immunity are especially vulnerable to different types of fungal infections. There are several reports that suggest that ICU patients that are admitted for a long time succumb to their deaths due to such infections.
Now in the current environment, where COVID-19 survivors’ immunity is already compromised, the black fungus can be fatal. If one adds the factor of high blood sugar and other comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, kidney issues, the chances to be infected increases even further. Moreover, steroids that are used in the treatment can also add to the factors leading to loss of sight or even an eventual death.
How would I know I have black fungus? What are the symptoms of black fungus or mucormycosis?
The CDC states that the symptoms of the infection vary according to which body part the fungus is growing in. If the fungus is growing in the sinus or the brain the symptoms include swelling of the face on either side, extreme headache, nasal congestion, black marks on the nasal bridge, black marks on the mouth. For fungus that’s growing in the lung, the symptoms include shortness of breathe, chest pain, congestion, cough.
How is black fungus or mucormycosis treated?
According to the CDC, the infection can be treated with antifungal medicines that include isavuconazole, Posaconazole, amphotericin, etc. According to the patient’s condition, the doctor can prescribe these medicines to be taken via an IV or orally.