As a deadly second wave of coronavirus continues to ravage India, cases of mucormycosis, a rare and life-threatening infection, are also being reported among Covid-19 patients and survivors. On Wednesday, two Covid patients died due to mucormycosis in Maharashtra's Thane district. According to the state's health minister, Rajesh Tope, there could be over 2,000 mucormycosis patients in the state as of now and with more and more Covid-19 cases coming up, "their number would increase for sure".
Cases of mucormycosis are on the rise in other states as well, including Gujarat, Odisha, Delhi and the southern states of India. In the case of Gujarat, the fungal infection has left several Covid-19 survivors blind.
According to health experts, the symptoms of mucormycosis include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion and partial loss of vision.
Why are Covid patients contracting mucormycosis
Doctors believe mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, may be triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients. Steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs for Covid-19 patients and appear to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body's immune system goes into an overdrive to fight off coronavirus. But they also reduce immunity and push up blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients.
It's thought that this drop in immunity could be triggering these cases of mucormycosis.
What is mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis, commonly called black fungus, is a rare but serious fungal infection caused by a kind of fungus called mucormycete, which is abundant in the environment. It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
Symptoms of black fungus or mucormycosis
These include pain and redness around eyes and/or nose, fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, bloody vomits, and altered mental status. Warning signs can include toothache, loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision with pain.
What happens when one contracts mucormycosis?
Warning signs include pain and redness around the eyes or nose, with fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, bloody vomits, and altered mental status. According to the government advisory, infection with mucormycetes should be suspected when there is:
* Sinusitis — nasal blockade or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/bloody);
* Local pain on the cheek bone, one-sided facial pain, numbness or swelling;
* Blackish discoloration over bridge of nose/palate;
* Loosening of teeth, jaw involvement;
* Blurred or double vision with pain;
* Thrombosis, necrosis, skin lesion;
* Chest pain, pleural effusion, worsening of respiratory symptoms.
Who is likely to contract the black fungal infection?
Vulnerable groups include people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. These include those with diabetes, cancer, or people who have had organ transplants.
Wear shoes, long trousers, long-sleeved shirts and gloves while gardening. Maintain personal hygiene including a thorough scrub bath. Use face mask.
Mucormycosis needs to be treated with prescription antifungal medicine.