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Black Fungus Cases in COVID-19 Patients

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

India is struggling with thousands of cases of deadly fungal infections in COVID-19 patients and those who have recovered from the disease.

Nearly 9,000 cases of a fungal infection called mucormycosis , also known as "black fungus," have been reported so far, federal minister Sadananda Gowda said Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Gowda didn't reveal the number of fatalities, but local media have said there have been more than 250 deaths from the disease.

Mucormycosis is caused by exposure to mucor mold -- commonly found in soil, air and in the nose and mucus of humans -- which spreads through the respiratory tract and erodes facial structures, the AP reported.

In some cases, doctors have to surgically remove the eye to prevent the infection from reaching the brain.

Mucormycosis was already present in India before the pandemic. It is not contagious but it has a high mortality rate and the frequency of cases in the last month has left doctors shocked.

"It is a new challenge and things are looking bleak," Ambrish Mithal, the chairman of the endocrinology and diabetes department at Max Healthcare, a chain of private hospitals in India, told the AP .

Mithal said the fungal infection preys on patients with weakened immune systems and underlying conditions, particularly diabetes , and irrational usage of steroids. Uncontrolled blood sugar can also put immunocompromised people at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

"Earlier, I used to come across just a few cases every year but the current infection rate is frightening," Mithal said.

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Eric Carter