There was a time when ‘fungus’ was mostly associated with rotten fruits or bread. But it’s not the same anymore. With time, fungi have evolved. As India continues to face an escalating health crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, several people recovering from the disease have been affected by the black fungus disease — also called black fungal infection in India. It is what doctors and scientists would call ‘mucormycosis’. In this blog, we will answer some of the common questions you may have regarding the black fungus and the chances of vision loss due to the black fungal infection.
Can Fungus Affect Humans?
It took fungi millions of years to evolve and get to how we see and experience them today. Fungal diseases are common among plants, but only a small fraction of them affect humans. This is because animals and humans have evolved to have strong and intricate immune systems.
However, when a human’s immune system has been severely affected by another illness — such as the COVID-19, severe diabetes or certain types of cancers — fungi can take advantage of this and invade human tissues.
What Causes Black Fungus Infection?
The black fungus, also called Mucor, produces millions of dark-hued, spherical structures that are microscopic and are called ‘spores’. These spores are dispersed in the air. When they land on moist surfaces, they start to germinate and produce thread-like structures called ‘mycelia’ that spread out and feed on sugars in their surroundings to grow.
When a patient or someone whose immune system has been compromised inhales the Mucor spores, they may develop mucormycosis. Note that all COVID-19 patients don’t have a chance of developing the disease.
Who Could Get Infected?
The black fungal infection is currently seen more in patients suffering from COVID-19 with very low immunity or diseases like uncontrolled Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and Cancer. And also in those who fail to maintain proper mask hygiene after recovering from COVID-19.
How Is Mask Hygiene Connected To It?
It has been observed that mucormycosis (black fungus) is on the rise in post-COVID patients. While their immunity goes down once they contract the viral infection, they also wear masks that are used multiple times — be it N95 or cotton masks. Due to the humidity in breathing, the mask becomes a perfect atmosphere for growth of fungus over 3-5 days — which goes straight into their respiratory system if breathed in while wearing the mask.
Is Black Fungus Dangerous?
Is black fungus contagious? If you have this question in mind, note that the black fungus infection is currently known to be non-contagious. It may seem simple in its initial stages, but it could turn to be fatal if not treated quickly — or if left untreated. When Mucor attacks the sinuses, it spreads to the eyes, the brain and the central nervous system. Mucormycosis is an infectious disease through which many people recovering from COVID-19 have lost their vision.
What Are the Symptoms of Black Fungus Infection?
Some common black fungal disease symptoms include:
- Swelling and pain in your eyes
- Fever and headache
- Excessively running nose
- Blurred vision
- Reddish or dark spots around the nose and eyes, or either
- Facial pain
- Dark fluids or blood in cough
- Loss of eyesight
It is important to know that the disease has eye and vision-related symptoms. Patients often feel these symptoms are normal, and delay getting them tested. This could lead to something severe. An eye of some patients have had to be removed by surgery because the infection could spread to the brain through the eye. In some cases, both eyes were removed. Removing their eyes was the only way to save their lives.
Ways To Prevent Black Fungus Infection
While there are no sure-shot ways to prevent the disease, here are a few precautionary measures that can be taken:
- Mask hygiene must be strictly maintained — masks used must be changed daily or washed daily, and dried in sunlight so mucor accumulation and fungus growth is avoided.
- Sugar levels of yourself — and that of your dear ones — must be kept in check.
- Society must be educated about the disease.
- Recovering COVID-19 patients must stay indoors till they regain their previous levels of immunity and strength.
If you see black fungus symptoms in yourself or those around you, you should immediately contact an experienced eye doctor. If you have questions regarding it, or want to have your eyes examined — get your eyes checked and treated at Prasad Netralaya, Mangalore and Udupi’s most trusted eye care hospital. Call us at +91 9513596565 or book an appointment if you wish to visit in person. You can also book a teleconsultation.