Covid-19 | Mucormycosis is not a communicable disease, says AIIMS chief

Early detection, hygiene key to tackling condition, Randeep Guleria says.

“Mucormycosis (Black fungus) is not a communicable disease and 90-95% of patients that we have with us currently are diabetics who were on steroids. We are also seeing the fungus early on in COVID patients which is proving to be a challenge,” Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Randeep Guleria said on Monday.

Dr Guleria, speaking at the Health Ministry press conference, added that early detection and hygiene are key to tackling the virus.

“Mucormycosis is one of the general fungal infections being seen in recovering or recovered COVID-19 patients. The number of cases being reported is increasing, but it is not a communicable disease, meaning it does not spread from one person to another, like COVID-19 does,” he said.

Dr. Guleria also said it is better not to use the term black fungus while talking of mucormycosis, as it leads to a lot of avoidable confusion.

“Black fungus is another family; this term got associated with mucormycosis due to the presence of black dots among the culture of white fungal colonies. In general, there are various types of fungal infections such as candida, aspergillosis, cryptococcus, histoplasmosis and coccidioidomycosis. Mucormycosis, candida and aspergillosis are the ones observed more in those with low immunity,” he said.

Not linked to oxygen therapy

“Many patients taking treatment at home, who were not on oxygen therapy, have also been found to get infected with mucormycosis. So there is no definite link between oxygen therapy and catching the infection,” Dr. Guleria clarified.

Stating that the anti-fungal treatment is long drawn over many weeks, Dr Guleria said that was proving to be challenging for hospitals, since COVID-positive patients and COVID-negative patients who catch mucormycosis need to be housed in separate hospital wards. Surgery also needs to be done judiciously since aggressive surgery for mucormycosis can have adverse outcomes for COVID patients.

“Maintaining proper hygiene is very important for diabetic patients since chances of opportunistic infection is very high in such patients. Those using oxygen concentrators should ensure cleaning of humidifiers regularly,” he said.

“Besides this even among those recovering we are seeing symptoms including chronic fatigue, joint pains, headaches, brain fog, cough etc. for anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. As our knowledge of the virus is growing, doctors are able to help the recovering patients who need to keep an eye-out for any post-COVID symptoms,” said Dr. Guleria.

He added that difficulty in concentrating, insomnia and depression are other signs to watch out for.

“There is a lot of stress on the society currently because of COVID and we have to come together to support each other. While it’s true that children aren’t showing serious infection, both in the first and second wave, there has been a lot of collateral damage to this population. As a society we have to come together to form help groups for the young children as they are the backbone of the society,” he said.

Third wave and children

Dr. Guleria explained that there is no evidence that the third wave would be more harmful for children.

“While viral infections are known to come in waves, there is no data or trend to suggest that it will be more harmful for the younger population. Our endeavour should be to avoid any more waves if possible or to ensure that the negative effects are minimal.”

Highlighting the fact that rural India is now seeing a rise in COVID cases, Dr. Guleria said there is a need to ensure that there are good testing and treatment facilities to make sure that every patient is given adequate care.

Meanwhile, replying to a question on India’s stand over reports suggesting that COVID-19 can be a laboratory virus joint secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Aggarwal said, “We will get more clarity and a bigger picture on the basis of discussions in multilateral forums.”

He added that the Central government is in dialogue with vaccine manufacturers and would be procuring vaccines depending on its availability and offering it to States for use.

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