Cases of mucormycosis, a fungal infection, are rising among Covid-19 survivors and causing blindness or serious illness and even death in some cases, health authorities in Maharashtra and Gujarat said on Saturday.
The cost of treating this disease is also an issue, some doctors say.
Mathur Savani, president of Surat-based Kiran Super Multi-specialty Hospital, said mucormycosis patients come to his hospital from Surat district as well as other parts of Gujarat.
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“Fifty patients with mucormycosis are being treated at our hospital, and 60 more are awaiting (treatment). They all came to our hospital in the last three weeks and have recovered from Covid-1
Seven such patients lost their sight, he said.
The civilian hospital in Surat has set up a separate facility for such patients, said the responsible Resident Medical Officer (RMO), Dr. Ketan Naik.
In Ahmedabad, at least five mucormycosis patients are operated on every day at the civilian hospital in Asarva, a senior doctor said.
“We receive five to ten such cases (daily), especially since the second wave of Covid-19 started,” said Dr. Devang Gupta, ENT specialist at the hospital.
“At least one in five cases is related to the eyes. Several of them suffer from blindness,” he said.
In Maharashtra, at least eight Covid-19 survivors have died from mucormycosis, while 200 others are being treated, said Dr. Tatyarao Lahane, who heads the heads of state government for medical education and research.
“They survived Covid-19, but the fungal infection attacked their weakened immune system,” said Dr. Lahane PTI.
This disease is not new, but it is rising among Covid-19 patients because the use of steroids raises sugar levels, and some drugs suppress the immunity of these patients, he said.
“In such a situation, the fungus easily infects the patient. If it reaches the brain, it can prove fatal. In such a case, one of the eyes of a patient had to be removed permanently to save his life,” said Dr. Lahane.
The fungus, also called ‘black fungus’, is present in the environment, but those with suppressed immunity or comorbidities are more vulnerable to the infection, he said.
Symptoms of mucormycosis include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion and partial vision loss, said Dr. Lahane.
He talked about treatment and said: “A patient generally needs an injection type for 21 days. The basic cost of this injection is around Rs 9,000 per day.”
Dr Hetal Marfatia, professor and head of the ENT department at the government-run KEM hospital in Mumbai, said there has been an increase in cases of mucormycosis in the last two weeks. “On average, two or three such patients visit the hospital every day,” he said.
Many of these patients come from outside Mumbai and cannot afford the treatment costs, he said.
During the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fungal infection typically appeared a few weeks after patients were discharged, Drs. Marfatia.
“But now some patients are getting this infection while undergoing Covid-19 treatment,” he added.
Niti Aayog member (health) VK Paul on Friday had said that cases of mucormycosis were found in patients with Covid-19.
“It’s caused by a fungus called mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. It happens largely to people who have diabetes. It is very unusual in those who are not diabetic. There is no major outbreak, and we monitoring it, ”he said at a news conference after a Delhi hospital highlighted rising cases.
“When a patient has oxygen support, it must be ensured that no water leaks from the humidifier (to prevent the growth of the fungus),” he said, while calling for “a rational use” of steroids and medicines such as. Tocilizumab for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.