India has been dealing with a harsh second wave of COVID-19, resulting in 300,000 deaths as of Monday, May 24th. Now, there is a new fear for those who have recovered from the respiratory virus: mucormycosis. This fungal infection has been reported in over 8,800 people, resulting in approximately 250 deaths.
According to the CDC, mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection caused by mucormycetes, a group of mold. People inhale fungal spores from the air, or the mold can be spread through a skin injury (burn, cut, etc.). Those with preexisting health issues or who take medications that impact the immune system are at the highest risk of this infection, which prompts concern for those who have recovered from COVID-19. Symptoms depend on where the infection reaches. For example, rhinocerebral mucormycosis causes fever, nasal or sinus congestion, headache, facial swelling on one side, and black lesions on the nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth. Pulmonary symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, and chest pain. Gastrointestinal symptoms are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Lastly, skin symptoms are pain, warmth, swelling, redness, blisters, ulcers, and the area turning black. To treat this condition, doctors will prescribe antifungal medications to be taken through IV or by mouth. They include mphotericin B, posaconazole, or isavuconazole. In some cases, surgery is needed to remove infected tissue.
Mucormycosis and COVID-19 in India
India reached 300,000 COVID-19 deaths as of Monday, joining the United States and Brazil. The country reported 222,315 new cases at the beginning of the week, some of which are also impacted by mucormycosis. Medical professionals have reported the fungal infection in current and recovered COVID-19 patients, causing symptoms like chest pain, blurred vision, and breathing difficulties.
As the infection has been found more in COVID-19 patients who were treated with heavy steroids, it is more common in rural areas and small cities, as the doctors there are not always properly prescribing steroids. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has labeled this infection as a new challenge, urging healthcare professionals to take cautionary steps against mucormycosis. They have already been facing the second wave of COVID-19, making the fight against this fungal infection even more difficult.
While the COVID-19 numbers seem to be slowing down, many are worried that there is an undercount. India is now reporting around 300,000 daily cases, which is a decrease from the 400,000 daily cases being reported earlier this month. Experts fear that the real number of cases is anywhere from five to ten times more. Still, they are doing all they can to fight both COVID-19 and mucormycosis.
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