The second wave of COVID-19 in India has brought with it a rare fungal infection known as mucormycosis (black fungus). It is a disease of the skin that also affects the brain and the lungs. However, one thing to note here is that this black fungus is not a new disease. Certain conditions in the treatment of COVID-19 have given rise to the development of this rare disease of mucormycosis in COVID-19 patients. It’s the elderly who are the most affected by it, for which many people are opting for elderly caregiving. To know what this disease is all about, let’s first understand:
What is Black Fungus?
Black fungus is a rare but serious infection caused by moulds known as mucormycetes. These moulds are present throughout the environment. A person who is already suffering from health problems or is taking medication that lowers their immunity is at the highest risk of contracting the black fungus disease.
Recently, there has been a rise of black fungus in people affected by the black fungus. The COVID-19 is a disease that directly affects the lungs of a person. This is why in severe cases people face breathing problems and they need medical oxygen to meet their oxygen requirements. Strong links have been found between black fungus and disease. Medical professionals have laid out categories of people (mostly COVID-19 patients) who are the high risk of this disease. These categories are:
• Patients who are affected by diabetic ketoacidosis and uncontrolled diabetes.
• Patients on tocilizumab and other steroids. Also, patients who have been prescribed tocilizumab or have been taking steroids for a long time.
• Patients affected by a chronic debilitating illness.
• Patients undergoing anticancer treatment or on immunosuppressants.
• Sever COVID-19 patients.
• Patients who are on oxygen support.
What are the Symptoms of Black Fungus?
There are a total of 5 types of mucormycosis that a person can be affected by it. These are categorised by various organs the disease infects.
The first is rhinocerebral mucormycosis. This is a sinus infection that can spread to the brain.
The second is pulmonary mucormycosis. This is a lung infection and is most common in people with cancer and/or people who have gone through organ transplant surgery.
The third is gastrointestinal mucormycosis. This is more commonly found in children than adults and affects premature babies and low birth weight babies under the age of 1 month.
The fourth is cutaneous mucormycosis. It is a skin infection and a person is affected by it when the fungus enters the body through a cut in the skin.
The last is disseminated mucormycosis. A person is affected by it when the infection spread throughout the body through the bloodstream. The brain is the most commonly affected organ by this, but it can also affect other organs such as the skin, heart, and spleen.
The mucormycosis affecting the CoViD—19 patients is mostly of the first and second category. Medical experts have listed out the symptoms of black fungus infection which one should keep an eye out for. These are:
• Numbness or swelling on one side of the face, local pain in the cheekbone, or one-sided facial pain.
• Sinusitis: Nasal congestion or blockage or nasal discharge that’s black.
• Black discolouration over the nose of the bridge.
• Loosening of jaw or teeth.
• Thrombosis: formation of blood clots under the skin.
• Chest pain and worsening of the respiratory system.
What are the Ways to Prevent Black Fungus?
Doctors have also laid out a list of precautions for the black fungus that one should take to prevent the infection. One key thing to note here is that black fungus is not a communicable disease. So it cannot spread from one person to another as COVID-19 can. Here are the ways to prevent the black fungus disease:
• For patients who are diabetic, good diabetic care is of utmost importance.
• Getting the COVID-19 vaccination at the earliest is also important. Since black fungus is only being developed in severe cases, the vaccination will prevent the COVID-19 infection, should you ever contract, from becoming severe.
• Limiting the use of steroids in the treatment of COVID-19.
• Regularly following up with people who have recovered from COVID-19 by ENT specialists will go a long way in preventing this disease.
• Wearing a mask when visiting a construction site.
What is the treatment for Black Fungus?
Several treatment steps are being taken by various experts at various places. These include:
• Antifungal therapy for at least 4-6 weeks.
• Surgery may be required in severe cases.
• Controlling diabetes.
• Reducing the use of steroids.
Till now, there has been no major outbreak of the black fungus disease in India. Medical experts are taking the necessary steps to prevent any form of an outbreak. Whether or not you are a COVID-19 patient, take the precautionary steps to prevent the disease and get vaccinated at the earliest to further reduce the risk. And when you notice any of the symptoms of black fungus, consult your doctor at the earliest.
At Emoha, we are here to assist our elders with expert COVID care for the elderly that includes COVID test assistance, 24*7 COVID helpdesk and emergency assistance, and a whole lot more. For us, it is always #EldersFirst