27 May 2021: Can you catch 'Black fungus' from your refrigerator or onions?
Even as cases of "Black fungus" continue to surge across India, there is growing misinformation about the disease, particularly fueled by unverified social media posts. In recent days, several such posts have surfaced online, claiming that you could catch Black fungus through household appliances such as refrigerators and vegetables like onions. So, do you really need to worry about that? Let's find out.
Claims: What do the viral messages say?
Messages spiralling on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook claim the black layer commonly seen on onions and the one covering the rubber inside refrigerators can cause mucormycosis once it enters your body. One such message in Hindi reads, "Beware of domestic black fungus. At times when you purchase onions, you must have noticed a black layer on them. Actually, this is the black fungus."
Details: What is that fungus inside your fridge?
Some forms of bacteria and yeast tend to grow inside refrigerators and on damp walls, Naseem Gaur, a scientist at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Delhi, told India Today. But, they are far different from the fungus that causes mucormycosis. However, it is still advisable to clean or remove such fungus if you find them on your household appliances, experts say.
Onions: What is the black mold on onions?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the black mold seen on onions is caused by aspergillus niger, a common fungus found in soil. But this kind of fungus is rarely infectious. "This kind of fungus causes infection in rare cases. However, onions should always be thoroughly washed before consuming," Dr. Shesh R Nawange was quoted as saying by India Today.
Infection: What is the Black fungus infection?
Mucormycosis is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes. These fungi are naturally present in the environment, but they typically affect people who are on medication for certain health problems, which essentially weakens their immune system. Experts say misuse of steroids among coronavirus patients and use of contaminated water in oxygen therapy humidifiers may also be responsible for the infection.
Spread: How does the infection spread?
The Black fungus infection is not contagious - implying it does not spread from one person to another. People with compromised immune systems catch the infection through the fungal spores present in the air or the environment. The fungi can also enter the body through the cuts in the skin. Mucormycosis is said to have a mortality rate of 50%.
Other details: Black fungus is not exactly black in color
Top doctors inform the Black fungus is not exactly black in color. Since it causes discoloration of the skin by decreasing the blood supply, it might appear the area has gotten black, which is why that name has been given, said AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria. India has 11,717 cases of the Black fungus infection, according to the latest government data.
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