Thousands of coronavirus patients in India had their eyes removed when a worrying “black fungus” outbreak struck the country alongside the pandemic.
The outbreak has overwhelmed some hospitals and caused panic. About 60 percent of patients had one or both eyes removed.
The rare and fatal disease – mucormycosis, also known as “black fungus” – is caused by naturally-occurring molds known as mucormycetes, which can kill people with weak immune systems.
Symptoms include blackening or discoloration of the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood.
Doctors believe the outbreak is caused by the steroids used to treat severe Covid-19 as the drugs decrease immunity and increase sugar levels.
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The “black fungus” outbreak has put further pressure on hospitals, which are grappling with the highest number of daily Covid-19 infections in the world.
The western state of Gujarat is creating special wards because there have been so many cases, and the northwestern state of Rajasthan has declared mucormycosis an epidemic.
Before the pandemic, doctors would see three to four cases a year. Now they help up to six patients a day.
Specialists have seen patients in their early twenties lose both eyes.
India is also grappling with a shortage of drugs – the drug amphotericin B – which is used to treat the rare fungal disease.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters in the western state of Maharashtra: “Depending on the severity of the disease, a patient needs 60 to 100 injections (Amphotericin B).
“With the current drop load, we need more than 150,000 injections.”
To date, 1,500 cases of mucormycosis have been reported and 850 patients are being treated.
The southern states of Kerala and Karnataka have extended their Covid bans to prevent the fungal disease from spreading.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter: “Another new black mushroom challenge has emerged in our battle these days.”
Most of the 7,000+ people who developed mucormycosis did so during or after their battle with the coronavirus.
54-year-old Anil Wankhede, who suffers from “black fungus”, developed a headache and a swollen right eye after being discharged from hospital after being treated for Covid.
He told that Times His right eye had closed when he tried to get help.
After seeing several doctors, he was eventually diagnosed with mucormycosis.
Dr. Akshay Nair told him his life was in danger and the only option would be surgery that would remove his right eye and remove his sinuses to prevent the fungus from spreading.
Dr. Nair said, “If we don’t remove all of its contents, including all tissue, nerves, and eyelid, the infection can enter the brain.
“We can’t save your life on stage.”
Dr. Renuka Bradoo, who works at Sion Hospital in Mumbai, called it “an epidemic within a pandemic”.
India has the second highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 (26,344,303) worldwide after the US with 33,862,557.
India’s official Covid death toll is 296,094, the third highest number in the world.
The US reported the most deaths (603,409), followed by Brazil (446,527).