The Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Monday said a rare but deadly fungal infection called mucormycosis is infecting COVID-19 patients.
Sounding alert, DAK president and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said if left untreated, the disease can be fatal for COVID patients. ‘Cases of mucormycosis, commonly known as black fungus are being reported in several states of the country among recovering and recovered COVID-19 patients,’ he said.
Dr Hassan said chances of fungal infection increase in COVID patients, who are diabetic and are taking steroids. ‘Diabetes lowers the body’s immune defenses, COVID exacerbates it and then steroids act like a fuel to the fire,’ he said.
Dr Hassan said COVID itself leads to lymphopenia, therefore predisposing patients to opportunistic fungal infection. ‘The use of ordinary water in humidifiers which are used during oxygen therapy could be another factor,’ he added.
The DAK president said in order to prevent this lifethreatening disease in COVID patients, doctors should use steroids judiciously and ensure there is no misuse of steroid. ‘People who have diabetes should keep their sugar levels in control. And, use sterile water for humidifiers during oxygen therapy,’ he said.
He said the fungus is ubiquitous and is found in soil, air and decaying food, adding despite being common in the environment, it does not cause infection in healthy humans. However, he said when the body’s defenses weaken; the fungus gets a chance to infect with devastating results. ‘After inhaling fungus from the air, it can go into nose, sinuses, eyes and brain leading to loss of vision and even death in some cases. It can also affect lungs,’ Dr Hassan said. He said symptoms include pain and swelling in eye or face, headache, nasal discharge and black crusts in the nose.
‘Treatment of mucormycosis involves removing of all infected tissue through surgery and following with antifungal amphotericin B,’ he said.
‘There is an urgent need to make people aware about the disease. A high degree of suspicion should be there with the doctors who are treating Covid patients and any nasal, facial and eye complaints should not be ignored because early detection and timely intervention holds the key,’ he added.