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India’s Second Epidemic ‘Black Fungus’ Is Surging on the Heels of Their Latest COVID-19 Wave

Published: June 25, 2021
A doctor assists a Covid-19 coronavirus patient with Black Fungus, a deadly and rare fungal infection, as he receives treatments at the NSCB hospital in Jabalpur, on May 20, 2021. (Image: UMA SHANKAR MISHRA/AFP via Getty Images)

A rare and deadly fungal infection, known as ‘Black Fungus’ that can destroy eyes and spread to the brain is sweeping through many Indian communities right on the heels of India’s latest COVID-19 wave adding more stress to an already inundated health care system.

Over 31,000 cases of Black Fungus, also known as mucormycosis, have been reported in India over the past several weeks. There has been an estimated 2,100 deaths due to the fungal infection however an official death toll has not been released.  

Medicine shortage

The surge in deaths is being partially attributed to a severe shortage of the key drug Amphotericin-B, an antifungal medication, that is used to treat patients. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Mucormycosis “is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.” 

It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medication that lowers the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. 

“It most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air. It can also occur on the skin after a cut, burn, or other type of skin injury.” reads the CDC website

The disease can cause sight loss, facial swelling, black lesions, blood clots, nerve damage, and death if not treated immediately following infection. 

Treatment of the infection requires intravenous administration of antifungal medications and when progressed far enough the removal of infected tissue which, in some cases, leads to the removal of a patients’ eyes. 

It’s estimated that the fungal infection has an overall fatality rate of 50 percent, however, mortality rates vary depending on a patients’ underlying health conditions and the current numbers coming out of India do not support this estimate. 

The infection can also take hold in the gastrointestinal tract and can spread through the bloodstream.

Black fungus has communities under strain

Currently, in India, the infection appears to be mainly taking root in the nose and sinuses where there is a potential for it to spread to the eyes and brain. 

New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) reported on June 19 that the community of Jharkhand was recently inundated with cases of the black fungus infection. “A total of 79 confirmed and 53 suspected cases have been reported to date in 18 of the 24 districts” reported the news agency

In late May, Maharashtra reported 7,057 cases and a total of 609 deaths. In Gujarat there were 5,418 cases reported and 323 deaths and the community of Rajasthan reported 2,976 cases and 188 deaths. 

“Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous state, has reported 1744 cases and 142 deaths while the neighbouring Delhi has logged 1,200 cases and 125 deaths. Similarly, on May 25, UP had 701 cases, while Delhi reported 119,” NDTV reported. 

The surge in cases has forced state governments to declare an epidemic of mucormycosis in addition to the COVID-19 epidemic still rattling the massive nation.  

Confirmed coronavirus cases in India inched close to 30 million on June 22 with a death toll of 389,302 and a recovered population of 28,950,726, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Since Jan. 16, 2021 India has administered a total of 261,740,273 doses of vaccines, representing a vaccination rate of 18.97 per 100 people. India currently also has the largest number of confirmed cases in Asia, though pandemic numbers coming out of China, the largest country by population, are suspected of being severely downplayed by the communist regime. 

India’s first case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was reported on Jan. 30 2020. By June 12, the following year had the second largest number of confirmed cases in the world behind the United States. 

The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in India after three Indian medical students returned from Wuhan. 

India navigated the first wave of the virus relatively well — with that wave peaking in September of 2020, but struggled with the second, much larger, wave that began in March 2021. 

The second wave caused shortages of vaccines, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other medicines in many parts of the country. 

During the second wave India became the first country to report over 400,000 new cases in a 24-hour-period. 

Experts are warning that India should brace for a third wave around October of 2021.