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Understanding Black Fungus is more important than Succumbing to its Fear!

mucormycosis fungus

BLACK FUNGUS-The newest kid around

Mucormycosis or the black fungus, is a rare but dangerous fungal infection. This violent infection affects the nose, eye and occasionally the brain. The spores of this fungus are found in dirt, in air, and sometimes in food too. It can also infect the sinus, brain and lungs and can be life-threatening in people with serious diseases like diabetes, cancer patients or people with AIDS

Doctors believe mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, may be being triggered by the current use/misuse of steroids to treat covid infections. Steroids (also called corticosteroids) are man- made version of chemicals, known as hormones, that are made naturally in the human body. They are made to act like these natural hormones to reduce inflammation. These are different to anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes.

They seem to help stop a portion of the harm that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive to fend off foreign bodies of the coronavirus. But these steroids also cause a reduction in the natural immunity of the body and can increase the blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients. Doctor’s believe that this drop in immunity may be triggering these cases of black fungus.

Sion Hospital, Mumbai has reported 24 cases of this black fungus in the past two months. Dr Raghuraj Hegde, an eye surgeon from Bangalore, has seen 19 cases of mucormycosis in the past two weeks, most of them young patients. Most doctors were not expecting this fungus to be this severe and this frequent. They rarely saw cases last year in comparison to this year. The doctor says he had probably seen not more than one or 2 cases in a decade, before the coronavirus.

Common Symptoms of Black Fungus and how to Prevent them

Some common symptoms which are usually seen include nasal blockage or congestion, reduction in facial sensation, blackish or bloody nasal discharge, headache, blackish discolouration over the bridge of nose. If the eyes also get infected, it can lead to blurred or in some cases double vision with acute pain. On the off chance that the lungs are influenced, (called pneumonic mucormycosis) previously existing Covid lung side effects like lung symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, accumulation of water in the lungs and chest pain may worsen. Different manifestations incorporate fever, hack, blood regurgitating and changed mental status.

Most doctors are blaming the over-usage of steroids and people self-prescribing medicines based on other people’s prescriptions to be some of main causes of the increase of this fungal infection. Covid with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart conditions etc along with steroids and low immunity, becomes the perfect host for mucormycosis.

Another reason why this fungal infection may have increased is linked to the oxygen delivery. Due to the extreme shortage of oxygen and hospital beds in the months of April and May, many people were left with no solutions for their family members who had contracted this disease, other than to set up home ICU’s or to provide oxygen via oxygen cylinders or oxygen concentrators. The oxygen has to go through water, as it its given without humidification, it will dry the mucous membrane and damage the inner lining of the lungs.

An anti-fungal intravenous injection has to be administered every day for up to eight weeks, which is the only drug effective against the disease. These injections are hard to come by now, as the fungal infections are increasing. The demand is not anywhere close to the supply. Many patients don’t even know that they have been infected by this fungus, which may cause further complications.

How can we prevent Black Fungus?

1.       Reduce misuse of steroids- Patients with mild disease, who don’t require oxygen and have an early-stage of covid infection, administering steroids to such patients may increase the chances of this fungal infection, specially if the patient has other diseases like diabetes.

2.       Keep a strict check on diabetes- patients with diabetes and covid are the perfect host for this fungus.

3.       Wearing a mask- as this fungus spores are in the air, wearing a mask can protect the patient greatly. Wearing a mask in important even after contracting the virus or getting a vaccine.

Always consult a doctor before taking any serious medications, black fungus is a life- threatening disease and should not be taken lightly specially for people with prevailing illness.

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