What is ‘black fungus’ infection in Covid-19 patients?

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What is ‘black fungus’ infection in Covid-19 patients? 

Amid the severe second wave of coronavirus, there are some cases of ‘black fungus’ infection in Covid-19 patients around the country. This rare but serious fungal infection is causing distress among people. Some Black Fungus infections have been reported in many COVID-19 survivors from Delhi, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. On Sunday, experts in the national Covid-19 task force issued an evidence-based advisory on the disease. What are the symptoms, who are more vulnerable, and what is the treatment? Here is all you need to know about ‘black fungus’ infection. 

What is ‘black fungus’ or Mucormycosis? 

Mucormycosis, commonly known as ‘black fungus,’ is a serious but rare fungal infection. It is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycosis, which is present naturally in the environment, often found in wet surfaces. People can get mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores present in the environment. Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have low immunity due to health problems or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. Usually, it does not pose a threat to those with a healthy immune system. If not treated timely, this disease can be fatal. According to the US Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), Mucormycosis has an overall all-cause mortality rate of 54 percent. 

Who is at risk of contracting ‘black fungus’ disease? 

Black Fungus generally affects individuals with lower immune systems. People who have recovered from COVID-19 or have other health problems like diabetes, kidney or heart failure, cancer, and patients who are on steroids have a lower immune system and are at risk of contracting this disease. The fungus causes the disease that has now been linked to the airborne COVID-19 infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, this infection is most common in diabetic patients and immunocompromised people. However, coronavirus itself weakens the body’s immune system, making COVID survivors more vulnerable to the disease. 

Symptoms and treatment of black fungus infection 

The common symptoms associated with Mucromycosis include headache, coughing, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, facial pain, redness around the eyes or nose, loss of vision or pain in the eyes, swelling in cheeks, and black crusts in the nose. According to the advisory issued by the national Covid-19 task force, infection with mucormycetes should be suspected when there is:

  • Nasal blockage or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/bloody)
  • Local pain on the cheekbone, one-sided facial pain, facial numbness or swelling
  • Loosening of teeth, jaw involvement
  • Blurred or double vision with pain
  • Chest pain, pleural effusion, worsening of respiratory symptoms.

Medical experts suggest that mucormycosis can be treated with antifungals, but in some severe cases, it may eventually require surgery to remove the affected area. Sometimes it can lead to loss of the upper jaw and, in some cases, even the eye.

Precautions and ways of preventing Mucormycosis?

This fungal infection is not transmissible between people and animals. One contracts this infection by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. Although it is a rare disease, there are some groups of people who are more vulnerable to this infection. In covid patients, the risk of this fungus can be avoided by avoiding prolonged use of steroids. Medical experts advise using masks if you are visiting dusty construction sites. Wear shoes, long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves while handling soil (gardening), moss, or manure. Maintaining personal hygiene is the most important precaution to the disease. 

The reports of black fungal infection from some states of the country are raising concerns. During a Health Ministry briefing, Niti Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said that mucormycosis cases were being found in patients with COVID-19. “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,” he had said. Prior to the first wave of COVID, Black Fungus was extremely rare and found only in immunocompromised people. However, in 2020, some cases were detected, but the numbers were very low compared to the current situation.