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The Deadly 'Black Fungus' First Appears as a Swollen Face, Those Who Survive Are Often Left with Major Disfigurements

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COVID-19 first took the world by storm over a year ago, but how many of us have ever heard of mucormycosis, known as the “black fungus”?

According to Dubai’s Khaleej Times, the black fungus is a lethal, rare fungal infection detected among a portion of COVID-19 patients in India.

Doctors say the fungus is found among diabetic COVID-19 patients who have received steroids, and it has particularly “come to light among immunosuppressed patients across the western Indian state of Maharashtra, one of the epicentres of the second and more lethal contagion,” the outlet reported.

The black fungus might not be as widespread as the novel coronavirus, but its prognosis proves COVID-19 is far from the worst ailment in the world.

The fungus is fatal in many cases. Survivors’ faces are often left disfigured, and some lose their eyesight.

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It begins as a runny nose and facial swelling, according to Dr. Rajesh Yadav, an ear, nose and throat consultant at Shatabdi Hospital and United Multispecialty Hospital in Kandivali.

But if not removed on time, the fungus quickly spreads inside the patient’s body.

“If the infection reaches the brain, I’m afraid, nothing can be done,” Yadav said, according to the Khaleej Times.

The fungus’ initial presentation is unfortunately generic, especially considering COVID-19 patients may be inclined to chalk up a runny nose or facial swelling to the virus.

Do you think the "black fungus" will spread beyond India?

But Yardav’s words confirm the horrifying nature — and the debilitating capacity — of this lesser-known killer after coming across 25 cases in a month.

When this black fungus attacks patients’ eyes, nose and palate, it leaves doctors with no option other than removal of these parts to save lives.

But once the fungus becomes rhinocerebral (in other words, spreads to the brain), Yardav said, the next step is to ” remove the sinuses and the orbit parts and manage it with medication.”

He isn’t the only doctor to deal with the black fungus, of course.

Dr. Shashikant Mhashal of Cooper Hospital in Mumbai said he had encountered 26 cases in one month in patients not only from Mumbai but also from other parts of the state of Maharashtra.

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Doctors say the key to preventing the deadly fungus includes keeping blood sugar under control and washing sinuses with a typical nasal saline solution.

Still, we’re left to wonder: Is this black fungus contagious?

According to MedIndia, no, it doesn’t spread from person to person. The fungus is most frequently contracted by inhaling spores.

Still, USA Today reported on the dramatic rise from a “handful of cases” to “tens of thousands of cases,” and that sharp incline should be concerning.

Could contaminated hospital equipment be to blame for these outbreaks across India?

Dr. Bhakti Hansoti, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine and international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the fungus “consumes a lot of resources especially during this pandemic right now in India where health care resources are stretched at the limit,” USA Today reported.

So what does this mean for the future of medicine in India? Will this lethal fungus become increasingly widespread and appear in other countries?

At this point, all we can do is wait and see.

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Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.
Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.




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