The Black Fungus : A raging epidemic amidst a pandemic
What is Black Fungus?
The Black Fungus, or formally, Mucormycosis, is an increasingly rare fungal infection, caused by the mucor mould.
The mucor fungus, present naturally in the soil, decaying fruits and vegetables etc releases spores in the air
Enters the body through the ENT tract
If the body is immuno-comprised, the fungus infects the sinus
Infection spreads from the airway into eyes, lungs and brain, and if treated too late, possibly turning fatal.
Relation with COVID 19
Patients suffering from severe COVID 19 have low immunity because of prolonged treatment with steroids. This violently increases the chances of contracting the black fungus. Moreover, patients on oxygen support/ ventilators due to the coronavirus have an added risk due to the vulnerability and exposure of their nasal tract.
The Sudden Spread
As of 21 May, the black fungus has claimed 219 lives in India, infecting more than 7,250 people. Maharashtra has seen over 1500 cases and 90 fatalities from the disease. By Friday morning, Haryana had reported 268 cases and Telangana 90.
The People at Risk
With mortality rate of around 50%, there are various sections of people at higher risk to contract the infection:
• People suffering from uncontrolled diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis and the diabetes patients at present on steroids/ tocilizumab.
• Patients with chronic illnesses
• Covid-19 patients showing severe symptoms
• Those on high dose steroids , long duration of tocilizumab, immunosuppressants.
• Those on ventilator support
• Those on oxygen support, with requirement of equipment like nasal prongs.
• People who have tested HIV positive.
The states of Telangana, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Gujarat have declared it an epidemic, as the fear of spread engulfs the already burning nation like wildfire.
According to the guidelines released by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Wednesday, the symptoms of Mucormycosis to watch out for are:
Facial numbness or tingling sensation, difficulty in chewing or opening mouth
Abnormal black discharge or crust, or bleeding from the nose
Swelling around the eyes, double vision, loss of vision, redness of eye, difficulty in closing eye, inability to open eye , eye pain
What to do if one is showing any symptoms?
Immediately consult an ENT doctor or ophthalmologist for their treatment.
Do NOT self-medicate with steroids, antibiotics or antifungal drugs.
Strictly control and monitor diabetes.
Take regular treatment and follow-up with your doctor.
The black fungus epidemic has shaken the already overburdened healthcare system in India. With an astronomically high mortality rate, if treatment is not provided timely, the disease could lead to massacre. While the west is looking to return to normality, India has to face yet another challenge for its population.
Sources: Times of India, Economic Times, BBC, Oneindia, AL Jazeera, Hindustan Times