‘Black fungus’ fear driving those with minor infections to doctors

With sinusitis mimicking initial symptoms of mucormycosis, also known as “black fungus”, there is panic and fear among people. This fear is driving even those with minor nasal tract or eye infections to rush to doctors.

Several ENT specialists and ophthalmologists that The Hindu spoke to said there is an increased apprehension among people if their nasal stuffiness or one-sided headache or toothache is a warning sign of mucormycosis.

Doctors who said that although mucormycosis is rarely seen in non-COVID immunocompromised people, it is now mainly seen as a post-COVID-19 complication among those who have uncontrolled diabetes, are immunocompromised following steroid treatment for COVID-19.

K. Bhujang Shetty, chairman of Narayana Nethralaya and member of the State’s expert committee on mucormycosis, said there is no need to panic as the root cause of the condition is uncontrolled diabetes, either pre-existing or drug (steroid) induced.

While it is always important to consult a doctor when in doubt, only those with uncontrolled diabetes who have recovered from COVID-19 and have received steroid treatment or those who received oxygen through nasal masks or canulas or were on ventilators are at high risk.

Mucormycosis is an opportunistic invasive fungal infection, starting in the nose traversing inwards into the sinuses and sometimes invading the eyes and brain. “It is important for people with high blood sugar to immediately seek medical treatment and control it,” he asserted.

Ajay Doiphode, ENT consultant and life member of ENT Association of India, pointed out that not all sinus symptoms or colds are related to mucormycosis. “People are unnecessarily getting anxious and are not convinced when we tell them that they do not have the infection even after an examination, which includes a nasal endoscopic check. Most are pleading for CT Scan or MRI of nose and sinuses,” he said. Karthik Shamanna, professor, Department of ENT at BMCRI, said: “If an individual does not have diabetes or if the blood sugar is controlled, there is no need to panic.”

Rohit Udaya Prasad, consultant, ENT and Hearing Implantology, Aster RV Hospital, said on an average, he sees around 10 queries a day either through phone/video call/OPD visits from patients who have none of the risk factors for mucormycosis. “People these days have more screen time on their gadgets, leading to eye strain and even such patients are visiting the hospital to find out if they have mucormycosis,” he said.

Santosh Sivaswamy, consultant-ENT, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal (a unit of Manipal Hospitals), said the hospital has been getting about 10 to 12 calls per day from people who have experienced headache and are confusing it for mucormycosis.

All 10 beds in Bowring occupied

A day after the State Health Department identified Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College and Research Institute as the dedicated facility in the city for treatment of mucormycosis cases, the hospital has seen 10 confirmed cases.

Institute dean and director H.V. Manoj Kumar said all 10 beds set aside for mucormycosis were occupied in a day. “If we get more cases, we do not know where to accommodate them,” he said.

Although Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar had on Monday said that 97 cases has been reported in the State, according to doctors from various hospitals the number could be more than 200 in the city itself.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 12:08:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/black-fungus-fear-driving-those-with-minor-infections-to-doctors/article34590721.ece

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