Patients within 6 weeks of COVID treatment are at highest risk of black fungus: Expert

New Delhi: Patients within six weeks of COVID treatment are at the highest risk of black fungus, said senior neurosurgeon at AIIMS.

Speaking to ANI, Professor of Neurosurgery at AIIMS, Dr P Sarat Chandra said, “One of the most important reasons is uncontrolled diabetes, systemic use of steroids along with tocilizumab, patients on ventilation and taking supplemental oxygen. Within six weeks of COVID treatment if people have any of these factors they are at the highest risk of black fungus.”

He cautioned that giving cold oxygen directly from cylinders could be very dangerous for patients.

“Giving cold oxygen directly from the cylinder is very dangerous. Anti-fungal drug Posaconazole can be given to high-risk individuals to reduce incidents of black fungus,” added Dr Chandra.

On the issue of masks, Dr Chandra said, “Prolonged use of masks to be discouraged as any cloth mask kept in a damp place with prolonged use may catch fungus. Cloth masks should be washed every day and N95 masks preferably discarded after five uses. Rotatory use of masks preferred that is, keep one mask for every day of the week and rotate them again.

Cases of ‘black fungus’ infection are being reported in several parts of the country. States like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Odisha, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have already declared it a ‘notifiable’ disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, thereby making it mandatory to report every Mucormycosis case to the state government.

Amid the rising concern of black fungus cases in addition to the COVID pandemic, the rare cases of Mucormycosis of the small intestine have been reported in Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

The fungal infection, which is caused by exposure to mucor mould that is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables, affects the brain, lungs, and sinuses and can be lethal to those suffering from diabetes and having compromised immune systems such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS.

AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria also pointed out that there has been an increasing trend of rise in fungal infection in the last few weeks being seen among those recovering from COVID-19 with several states reporting an increase in the cases of black fungus.

“The Covid-19-linked infection has claimed more than 7,000 lives in the country,” said Dr Guleria.