The second wave of coronavirus has brought India down to its knees. With the number of cases increasing every day, lack of proper resources, and India's B.1.617 COVID-19 variant that has been classified as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, things are only getting worse. Amidst the medical menace, mucormycosis, also known as 'black fungus' has been diagnosed in many COVID-19 patients with comorbidities causing concerns. Many cases of mucormycosis have been reported in Delhi, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Mucormycosis is serious enough to cause the patient to be directly administered to the ICU if not treated in time. Here's more about mucormycosis causes, symptoms, risks, diagnosis, prevention & treatment. COVID-19 Double Mutant B.1.617: How Dangerous Is This Indian Variant of SARS-CoV-2? Everything You Want to Know.
What Is Mucormycosis (Black Fungus)?
Contrary to what many people may think, given its association with COVID-19 patients in the current situation, mucormycosis is not new. Also, colloquially known as "black fungus", mucormycosis is a type of fungal infection caused by a group of molds called micromycetes and is known to spread rapidly in the body, if not tackled in time. Previously called zygomycosis, mucormycosis can attack the patient's brain, lungs, or skin. This disease may cause patients to lose their eyesight and if not controlled in time, it can also be fatal. It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness, as per CDC. Sinuses or lungs of people can be affected if they inhale fungal spores from the air. There has been noted a rise in cases of mucormycosis among people hospitalised or recovering from COVID-19, with some requiring urgent surgery. Usually, mucormycetes do not pose a major threat to those with a healthy immune system.
'Black Fungus' Common Symptoms
- Redness near the eyes and nose
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody vomits
- Change in mental health
How Is Mucormycosis Diagnosed?
It is important to immediately reach out to your healthcare providers and they will examine your medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests when diagnosing mucormycosis. They might collect a sample of fluid from your respiratory system to send to a laboratory. A tissue biopsy may also be performed to figure it out. Sometimes doctors may need imaging tests such as a CT scan of your lungs, sinuses, or other parts of your body, depending on the location of the suspected infection.
Who is at The Risk of Mucormycosis?
People with a healthy immune system or who are NOT on prescription medication need not worry much since mucormycosis is rare. However, it’s more common among people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness aka immune system, says CDC. Certain groups of people who are more likely to get mucormycosis are people with:
- Diabetes, especially with diabetic ketoacidosis
- Organ transplant
- Stem cell transplant
- Neutropenia (low number of white blood cells)
- Long-term corticosteroid use
- Injection drug use
- Too much iron in the body (iron overload or hemochromatosis)
- Skin injury due to surgery, burns, or wounds
- Prematurity and low birthweight (for neonatal gastrointestinal mucormycosis)
Why Is Mucormycosis or Black Fungus a Risk in People Having the Coronavirus?
Patients with or who have recovered from COVID-19 may have a very weak immune system, due to this mucormycosis or black fungus can grip them easily. COVID-19 patients who have diabetes, mucormycosis can be most at risk. Apart from uncontrollable diabetes, changes in the immune system due to steroids, sometimes used during coronavirus treatment can also be the reason.
Is Mucormycosis Contagious?
CDC clearly mentions that mucormycosis can’t spread between people or between people and animals.
How to Prevent Mucormycosis amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- Keep diabetes under control
- Keep in check the blood sugar levels even after treatment of COVID-19 and discharge from the hospital
- Understand steroid treatment carefully and consult its pros and cons with your doctor.
- Use clean and sterile water during oxygen therapy
- Use antibiotics and antifungal medicines carefully in consultation with your doctor.
What NOT to Do If You Think You Have Mucoramycosis or Black Fungus
- Do not ignore any type of symptoms or changes in the body.
- Do not delay your tests for fungal infection.
- Don't even think of trying out home remedies.
How To Lower the Risk of Mucormycosis?
CDC explains that while it may difficult to avoid breathing in fungal spores because the "fungi that cause mucormycosis are common in the environment" and there is no vaccine available to prevent mucormycosis, people with weakened immune systems can lower their risks by:
- Whenever you go out, especially in a dusty area, wear a mask. Wear an N95 respirator if needed. Double Mask Means Double Protection Like the N95 Mask? From Benefits to Dos and Don'ts, Expert Reveals How to Cover Your Face to Protect Yourself Amid COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Avoid contact with soil or gardening. If you are around such an environment, wear shoes, pajamas, full arm shirts, and gloves to protect yourself
- Stay away from water-damaged buildings or flood water.
- Take care of personal hygiene, including taking a scrub bath with soap or disinfectant.
- Antifungal medications are suggested by CDC. If you are at high risk for developing mucormycosis (for example, if you’ve had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant), your doctors may prescribe you medication to prevent mucormycosis and other mold infections.
Environment More More Likely To Have Fungi That Causes Mucormycosis
According to CDC, mucormycetes, the group of fungi that cause mucormycosis, are present throughout the environment and may not be traceable easily to the naked eyes because they are microscopic fungal spores. So it is important to prevent yourself if you have compromised immunity. However, CDC mentions that they particularly present in soil and in association with "decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, and animal dung."
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 11, 2021 05:05 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).