Rajat Sharma

Black Fungus is not contagious like Coronavirus !

AKBThe Black Fungus is spreading rapidly in different states of India and on Friday, the first case of a 15-year-old boy was found infected with black fungus in Ahmedabad. The teeth and parts of the upper jaw of the boy had to be removed. The strangest part is that this boy was neither suffering from diabetes or any debilitating disease, and yet Black Fungus disease was detected in him.

This is the first case of pediatric mucormycosis in Ahmedabad. He was discharged last month from hospital after Covid-19 treatment, but later he was diagnosed with mucormycosis. Cases of black fungus are being found mostly in those patients who have recently recovered from Covid-19. The fungal infection is more life-threatening and attacks those having weak symptoms or suffering from diabetes or cancer.

In the Ahmedabad case, the boy first lost his mother to Covid-19, and himself fully recovered from the virus, but later he started having pain in his teeth and his eye became swollen. He was taken to a hospital, where surgery had to be performed to remove his upper teeth and part of his upper jaw. Our reporter Nirnay Kapoor found out that the boy was put on oxygen support last month and some steroids were given to him during Covid treatment. The boy is now stable after facial surgery.

On Thursday night in my prime time show ’Aaj Ki Baat’, the head of endocrinology department in AIIMS Dr Nikhil Tandon had told me that nearly 20 cases of black fungus were found last year in his hospital during the first wave of the pandemic, but there was no kid among them. Most of them were suffering from diabetes or low immunity. On Friday, our reporter Nirnay Kapoor found that even people who were never on oxygen support or who never took steroid during Covid treatment, and who had no diabetic history, are now suffering from black fungus. This is a most worrying trend and needs proper study. Relatives of some of these patients said that black fungus symptoms were similar to those of Covid-19, and it could be that doctors gave steroids to their patients, bringing down their immunity and allowed the fungus to grow.

Presently there are more than 2,000 black fungus cases in Gujarat, out of which nearly 850 patients are in Ahmedabad hospitals. In Surat, a 23-year-old man died, and it was only after seven days that reports showed he was suffering from black fungus. In this case, there were no symptoms of swollen eyes or face, but the fungus had reached the brain of the patient. On April 28, he was tested Covid positive, he was admitted to hospital for breathing problem, and on May 4 he was discharged from hospital after recovery. On May 8, he had sudden fits of epilepsy, and was again admitted to hospital in critical condition, where he died on May 12. During MRI tests of his brain, it was found that black fungus has spread throughout his brain. Samples of his brain tissues were sent for biopsy, and the reports came seven days after his death. He was found infected with black fungus.

I am narrating these cases to alert all of you about the symptoms of black fungus that is spreading its wings across India. It can infect children and younger people too, who have no history of diabetes or cancer, or never took oxygen support or steroids. On noticing the first symptoms, it would be advisable to consult a specialist.

In Maharashtra, too, more than 2,000 cases of black fungus have been reported. Eighty of them have died. Our reporter Namrata Dubey went to Vedanta Hospital, Thane, and took down case histories of 12 patients who have since recovered. In none of the 12 cases were the symptoms same. One patient Naresh had paid in his eye, he got an MRI done, and surgery was done to remove black fungus. The fungus spreads very fast, and speed in reporting such cases is essential. Six anti-fungal injections, Liposomal amphotericin-B, are given daily to a single patient during treatment. There are nearly 300 black fungus patients in Pune, and the supply of this anti-fungal drug is limited. 200 patients each are there in Nagpur and Nashik, and they, too, require this essential drug. Maharashtra government has ordered supply of 1.9 lakh such vials.

In Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab and UP, too, black fungus is spreading fast. Out of nearly 500 black fungus cases in UP, nearly 100 cases have been reported from Lucknow alone. Cases have also been reported from Meerut, Aligarh, Kanpur and Varanasi. In Bihar, there are more than 100 black fungus cases.

Black fungus is not contagious like Coronavirus. It occurs in one in a million people. There is no need to fear this disease, but everyone has to be on alert against the first symptoms that show. This disease has not been reported from Covid-hit countries like USA or European countries. In India, this fungus is prevalent due to dust, wind, ferns and grass. The fungus attacks those having weak immunity. Before this disease became an epidemic, there were six pharma companies in India which used to produce 3.8 lakh vials of amphotecirin-B every year. Now the demand has multiplied manifold, and the drug companies have started to ramp up production.

Five more pharma companies have been given emergency approval to manufacture this anti-fungal drug. Orders have been placed with US companies to import six lakh vials. Let us hope that the availability of this drug becomes easier. Everybody needs to be cautious about the fast changing symptoms of this deadly disease.

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