ENT specialists in Bengaluru and elsewhere are seeing more cases of acute fungal infection in patients that have recovered from Covid-19. The infection would generally be so severe that the eye of the patient has to be removed to save his life. This dreadful fungus is commonly referred to as black fungus and it is indeed turning people's life away from the light.
Initially, it will just be a sinus issue. People would have severe headache, numbness in the nose and face, some may even lose a tooth or two but no one thinks it to be a post-Covid issue. A very negligible number of patients seek doctor at early stages, says Dr Suryanarayana Sharma, Senior Consultant Neurologist with Apollo Hospitals. Mucormycosis, aka Black Fungus, infection is not a new thing. Since Covid, this has become a common sight. On average, one multispecialty hospital in Bengaluru sees around 10 cases in 2 weeks. Any person whose immunity is low has a danger of contracting this fungus.
Covid is an immunity suppressing condition and steroids have played a major life-saving role in many critical patients. The steroids in turn also reduce the immunity further making the body a haven for the fungi to invade and take over.
Generally, patients who are cured of Covid and suffer from diabetes, have undergone organ transplantation or on cancer drugs are more prone to deadly fungi.
After around 2 weeks of Covid infection, it's a very crucial time for the patient. Initially, it begins with headache, toothache, numbness in the face and sinus like symptoms. If treated at this stage, a complete cure is possible. But patients generally see the doctor at later stages when their eyes swell. The fungi would have eaten up the sinus and spread to the eye by then. It will reach the brain through the nerve of the eye and this is fatal. Several patients seek medical help after they almost turn blind which is a stage where the fungi would have reached the brain making it almost impossible to cure.
Once the infection spreads to the brain, there's no cure. Dr Sharma recalls a 40-year-old non-diabetic patient who was operated on a few weeks ago. "The patient was young, no comorbidities and was cured of Covid. So, we took a chance and operated on him. But even after trying hard, he couldn't be saved. From infection to death, the fungi take 7 to 10 days at the maximum. Hence reaching out to the doctor in early stages is the only way to escape death in such cases."
Manas Aradhya, who lost his uncle to this infection, says the family wasn't aware of such a fungal infection at all until his uncle was diagnosed. "Had we known about such infection, we would identify symptoms earlier. My uncle was happy to be home after being treated for 3 weeks in hospital for the Covid. Initially, when he had a headache, we all thought it to be after-effects of the Covid. After 5 days, there was a significant loss in his vision and I noticed swelling around his eyes. That's when we visited an eye specialist who referred us to an ENT. By the time the neurologist saw him, doctors said it was very late. All of this happened in less than 10 days. He won over the virus, but fungi slayed him" states Aradhya.
Also, if any person has good immunity the fungi can't affect them as much. During the second wave, patients of 40 to 70 years of age are seen with black fungal infection. Oxygen pipes are also considered to be potential carriers of these deadly fungi. After used by a patient, oxygen pipes and every attached device is to be thoroughly cleaned and chemically treated. But due to the surge in the Covid cases and scarcity of oxygen everywhere, this seems to be neglected to lead to the spread of Mucormycosis.