The ICMR has warned that Covid patients who have uncontrolled diabetes and are on steroids that suppress the body’s immunity or have had a prolonged stay in the ICU must beware of black fungal infection (mucormycosis). They are predisposed to catching the infection as their ability to fight germs like this fungal pathogen (mucormycetes), found in the environment, is compromised. It is important to seek immediate medical help because if left uncared, the disease can lead to loss of vision; the treatment may eventually require surgery for the removal of nose, eye or jaw and it may even be fatal. The US Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention estimates mucormycosis with an overall mortality rate of 54 per cent. The government has done well to caution the Covid-battered public. It must also scale up infrastructure to treat the victims.
The advisory comes in the wake of a worrisome rise in cases of this otherwise rare fungal disease detected among Covid survivors in many places, including Pune, Delhi and Ahmedabad. The example of Pune — that traditionally saw just one such case every few months has witnessed around 30 cases in the past two to three weeks — should alert the vulnerable group of patients. They need to be on the lookout for such symptoms as sinusitis, black or bloody nasal discharge, pain on cheek bone or one side of the face, ache/loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision with fever, skin lesion, thrombosis, chest pain and shortness of breath.
The set of preventive dos and don’ts enumerated should be helpful. Emphasis is laid on controlling blood glucose level and the judicious use of steroids, with correct timing, dose and duration — under medical supervision. Also highlighted is the need to maintain personal hygiene and stay masked and fully covered with shoes, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. Even as guidelines have been prescribed for doctors — a team of various specialists is needed — for the line of treatment to be adopted, people showing warning signs would do well to promptly take medical aid before it turns into a back-breaking, deadly malaise.