New “Black Fungus” Takes Over India’s Second Wave of COVID


Alysha Izquierdo, H

With the second Covid wave crippling India’s health facilities and hospitals across the country loaded with Covid-19 patients, religious institutions as well as community centers have been contributing their free space to make room for patients for primary care treatment. Some of these facilities have also been functioning as oxygen supply centers. The sudden shortage of hospital beds and oxygen and the lack of proper home care for asymptomatic-to-mild Covid patients have led to people from across all communities setting up Covid care centers and oxygen centers and providing other Covid-related support all over India.


Sri Lanka has extended its on going travel ban for another two weeks as health experts warn of a possible breakdown of the country’s health system due to rampant coronavirus infections.The country is currently under a weeklong travel ban which was scheduled to be eased on May 28. On Monday, the government announced that the lockdown-style ban will continue until June 07. The ban will be eased for several hours on two days to allow people to buy food and other essentials from outlets within walking distance. It will not apply to those engaged in essential services such as health, food supply and those seeking medical treatments. Health experts in Sri Lanka suggest coronavirus infections are rampant across the country and the actual number in communities is three times the number detected. According to the latest statistics of the health ministry, Sri Lanka has 161,242 positive cases with 1,178 fatalities.


As India’s coronavirus death toll passed 300,000 on Monday, experts are concerned about the emergence of a usually rare fungal infection called mucormycosis among coronavirus patients. Experts say that only a few people with the disease were diagnosed prior to the second wave of Covid. Many are frightened as to what might happen to those already sick from Covid-19. Over 8,800 total cases of the so-called black fungus, known as mucormycosis, have been recorded across India, the country’s minister of chemicals and fertilizers, Sadananda Gowda, said in a tweet Saturday. Although Gowda did not share the official number of deaths caused by mucormycosis, The Associated Press reported that local media had found that more than 250 people have died as a result of the disease.


The fungal disease, which begins in the nose but can then spread into the brain, has a 50% mortality rate. The disease spreads through the respiratory tract and is especially harmful to those with weakened immune systems and underlying conditions, and as doctors in India are finding, in coronavirus patients who had been treated with large quantities of steroids. Doctors say one of the reasons behind the explosion in “black fungus” infections has been excessive use of steroids on virus patients. Mucormycosis has appeared in both current and recovering patients of coronavirus, causing blurred vision, chest pain and breathing difficulties. Mucormycosis can be deadly if it makes close contact with the brain so doctors are having to remove the eyes of many patients to stop the spreading.


For weeks now, India’s health care system and crematoriums have been overwhelmed by the country’s rampant second wave, facing shortages in oxygen supply, medication and ICU beds. However, there have been some signs of infections slowing down, with less than 300,000 daily cases in a week being recorded, compared to daily counts reaching over 400,000 earlier this month. Experts still fear that the number is a vast undercount, and that the real figures may be between five to 10 times higher in the country with a population of over 1.3 billion.