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What is Black Fungal Disease?

The second wave of COVID-19 is upon India, and it is more devastating than last year. The infection rate is growing at an alarming rate, and counteractive lockdown protocols have created an economic vortex, deeply affecting the citizens on the lower socio-economic spectrum.  

The second wave in India is proving to be more fatal and easily contagious, which has caused a tremendous strain on the healthcare system and professionals. This system failure caused a deficit in oxygen supply in hospitals nationwide. If things already look bleak, COVID-19 patients have started contracting a rare and deadly fungal infection, called mucormycosis, a.k.a Black Fungus.

What is mucormycosis aka black fungal disease?

It is a type of fungus that is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes. These are naturally found and usually found in soil, plants, organic substances, etc.

It mainly targets the nose, mouth, lungs, and brain, but it can be found anywhere in the alimentary canal, based on the intensity of the fungal infection. The black fungus can be contracted through scrapes, burns, or any skin trauma as well. 

Mucormycosis isn’t a fungal infection exclusive to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It has been documented mainly among immunocompromised patients, especially with severe diabetes, making them susceptible to any pathogen attack.

Why is the black fungal disease affecting COVID-19 patients?

This strain has proven to be especially dangerous among covid patients as their lungs are already compromised, and other ailments are tagging along, rendering the patient’s immunity absent.  

People with diabetes are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19, and to mitigate this issue, they are treated with steroids. Doctor’s in India use steroids to treat extremely critical covid patients as it helps with lung function and reduces inflammation. 

 On the flip side, it tanks the immunity drastically and increases blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic covid-19 patients. This makes them the prime target for the black fungus. Patients with prolonged ICU stays are also at high risk of mucormycosis.

Symptoms 

The ratio of COVID-19 patients contracting the black fungus isn’t very high. Although, the mortality rate is at a staggering 50%, which has put every medical professional on high alert. All doctors have been asked to look out for the following symptoms regardless of how minute they might seem. 

  • Sinusitis, nasal blockage or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/bloody)
  • Local pain on the cheekbone, one-sided facial pain, numbness or swelling
  • Blackish discolouration over the bridge of nose/palate
  • Loosening of teeth, jaw involvement
  • Blurred or double vision with pain
  • Thrombosis, necrotic skin lesion
  • Chest pain, pleural effusion, worsening of respiratory symptoms

Precautions to prevent black fungal disease

There isn’t enough data to pinpoint the source of the sudden spike in black fungus cases. Although, based on the mode of contraction and the physiological effects, we can take a few precautions. 

  • Wear masks in dusty regions and construction sites
  • Use appropriate protective clothing and gears while engaging in activities like gardening
  • Ensure you scrub and take a bath every time you come back from outside (regardless of the distance or duration)
  • Manage your sugar levels and avoid using steroidal medications which might compromise your immunity.

Only time will tell if we will be able to fight the fungal infection. Until then, follow COVID-19 protocols and double-mask when stepping out of the house. These are trying times, affecting the entire nation mentally and physically. Only working together and adopting healthy preventive measures will get us out of this pandemic.  

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