What is Black Fungus Disease? Is It Killing More Indians Than COVID-19?

As India continues its war against the novel Coronavirus, another blood-curdling situation has arisen in the country. People in India are suffering from a rare fungal infection after recovering from COVID-19. Over 100 black fungus cases were detected in India's Gujarat on Saturday, May 8. The government announced separate wards for patients with infections.

A high incidence of the deadly fungal infection was reported from civil hospitals in Gujarat's Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Jamnagar. The state government has decided to set up separate wards for the treatment of patients suffering from 'Mucormycosis'.

What is Black Fungus?

Many patients in Delhi and Gujarat have exhibited symptoms of Mucormycosis, which is a rare fungal infection triggered by COVID-19 also called, "Black Fungus." This infection is most likely to be seen in patients who have recovered from COVID-19 but have comorbidities such as diabetes, kidney or heart failure, or even cancer.

Doctors in India have revealed that patients with low immunity are at higher risk of having this infection. "Patients whose immune systems are compromised are at a higher risk. This could include diabetes, patients on steroids, those who have cancer and transplant patients. This infection usually impacts the sinus, brain and lungs" said Dr. Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department of Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital speaking of this rare disease.

Black Fungus
Black Fungus occurs mostly in patients with comorbidities Web Screen grab

Symptoms of Black Fungus

Face numbness, nose obstructions on one side, swelling in the eyes, or pain are the symptoms of the rare fungal infection.

Drugs, Treatment for Black Fungus

Indian medical departments are administering Amphotericin-B injections of the antifungal drug used to treat potentially life-threatening fungal infections.

Is 'Black Fungus' killing more Indians than COVID?

While the country recently reported the world's highest daily surge, India recorded 4.01 lakh cases on Saturday, taking the active caseload to over 37,23,440. In the last 24 hours, India recorded 4,187 deaths due to COVID-19 taking up the death toll in the country to 2.38 lakh. However, the nation has also recorded an alarming increase in mucormycosis cases and deaths due to the rare fungal infection, as a post COVID complication.

India's head of the Covid-19 taskforce and Niti Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said, "The fungal infection called mucormycosis is being found in patients of COVID-19 disease. It is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces."

How does 'Black Fungus' Look Like?

Paul further clarified that even though the infection largely affects people with diabetes, it is not uncommon in those who are non-diabetic. "There is no big outbreak and we are monitoring it," said Paul, assuring that it's not a big issue.

While hospitals in India see an alarmingly high number of mucormycosis cases, it is hard to guess the exact number of deaths due to this post-COVID complication as the infection has not been categorized as a communicable disease. Reportedly, health departments in Indian states do not maintain a public record of deaths due to Black Fungal infections, unless notified by hospitals or higher medical authorities.