The first cases of a deadly “black fungus” related to the coronavirus variant first identified in India were found outside the country.
Health officials have reportedly recorded one case in Chile and another in Uruguay, raising fears that the infection is spreading rapidly.
The Chilean Society of Infectology said: “Cases of fungal infections have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, but the incidence has increased and severe cases have increased.”
According to The times, the patient who contracted the fungus in Uruguay is a 50-year-old who recovered from Covid-19 last week.
A surge in cases of mucormycosis – also known as black fungus – has resulted in thousands of patients having their eyes removed in Covid-stricken India.
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Doctors are concerned about the infection while the health system is under pressure due to the high number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
More than 8,800 patients in India have been infected with the infection.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “In this battle of ours, another new black fungus challenge has emerged these days.”
The main drug to fight the disease is amphotericin B and there is a shortage right now in India where doctors who normally see three or four cases a year are now seeing five to six a day.
After cases of the rare infection were also registered in other countries, there were fears that it could spread further.
The main symptoms of mucormycosis: blackening or discoloration of the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, difficulty breathing and coughing up blood.
The disease has a 54 percent death rate, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It can be life-threatening, especially to people with diabetes or the severely immunocompromised, including cancer patients and those with HIV or AIDS.
It comes as Public Health England confirmed that the Indian variant of Covid is now officially the dominant strain of the virus in the UK, having overtaken the Kent mutation.
Weekly variant data from PHE shows that cases of the Indian variant in the UK have increased by 5,472 to 12,431 since last week.
Although there are some regional differences, experts now believe that the “Delta” variety that first appeared in India has now overtaken the Kent variety that began to roam the country late last year.
Early evidence suggests that the variant officially known as VOC-21APR-02 could have an increased risk of hospitalization, the PHE warned.
Dr. Jenny Harries, General Manager of the UK Health Authority, said: “With this variant now prevalent across the UK, it is still important that we all continue to be as careful as possible.
“The way to approach variants is to approach the transmission of Covid-19 as a whole. Work from home where you can and practice ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ anytime.
“If you are eligible and have not already done so, please come up to the front for the vaccination and make sure you get your second vaccination. It will save lives.”