May 23, 2021

Five Cases So Far: Black fungus claims life, West Bengal govt issues advisory

The West Bengal government on Saturday issued an advisory on mucormycosis — commonly known as black fungus — after a Covid patient died from the fungal infection in Kolkata.

According to the health officials, the state till now has reported five cases of black fungus infection.

Besides constituting an expert committee to deal with black fungus cases, the state health department has formulated an advisory, titled “Mucormycosis — If Uncared For — May Turn Fatal”, for the people.

The advisory mentioned warning signs of the disease such as pain and redness around the eyes or nose, fever, headache, coughing and shortness of breath along with vomiting blood and “altered mental status” – general changes in brain function like confusion, amnesia, loss of alertness and disorientation.

Those having health conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, suppression of immune system by steroids, prolonged stay in ICU, comorbidities involving post-transplant and malignancy are prone to be infected by the fungal disease, it said.

“Voriconazole therapy may cause mucormycosis, and to prevent this, one must have to control diabetes,” it added.

It is to be noted that the 32-year-old woman, who died of black fungus infection, was highly diabetic and was on insulin, according to the health officials.

Shampa Chakraborty, a resident of the southern part of Kolkata’s Haridevpur area, was admitted to Sambhunath Pandit Hospital with Covid-19. She was later diagnosed with mucormycosis, an official said, adding that she died on Friday.

The advisory pointed out that nasal blockage or congestion, one-sided facial pain, numbness, blackish discolouration over the bridge of nose or palate, toothache, loosening of teeth, blurred vision along with chest pain and worsening of respiratory symptoms are suspected signs of being infected by mucormycosis.

As people catch the infection by coming in contact with fungal spores in the environment, people have been cautioned against having exposure to decaying bread, fruits and vegetables, besides soil, compost and excreta. “Wear shoes, long trousers, long sleeve shirts and gloves while handling soil gardening. People must maintain personal hygiene and thorough scrubbing is recommended while bathing,” the advisory said.

The disease can develop after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, burn or other types of skin trauma. The advisory said that the use of masks is necessary especially during visits to dusty construction sites.

The advisory advised optimal steroid usage – right timing of initiation, right dose, and right duration. Also, use clean distilled water for humidifiers during oxygen therapy, it said.

On the management of the disease, the health department has advised adherence to strict diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis control as well as reduce steroids. “Discontinue immunomodulating drugs and infuse normal saline before Amphotericin B (an anti-fungal medication) infusion. Patients should be monitored clinically and with radio imaging for response and to detect disease progression,” the advisory read.

The blood glucose level should be monitored post-Covid-19 discharge as well as regular examinations to find any warning signs, it stated, besides mentioning judicious usage of steroid and antibiotics.

At present, five patients are undergoing treatment for the disease in the state and all of them are from neighbouring Bihar and Jharkhand, an official said adding, “We are constantly monitoring their condition.”

154 Covid deaths in 24 hrs

The state reported 154 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 14,208.

In the last 24 hours, 18,863 new cases were reported with the number of active patients decreasing to 1,31,688 as the number of persons recovering — 19,202 — was more than the number of people testing positive. With the number of recovered people increasing to 11,02,772, the recovery rate has shot up to 88.32%.

Of the fresh cases, almost 7,000 were reported from two districts — Kolkata and North 24 Parganas. In North 24 Parganas, 3,876 people tested positive, while in Kolkata, 3,280.

North 24 Parganas district accounted for 43 fresh fatalities, while 41 deaths were registered in Kolkata, the bulletin said.

In north Bengal, the highest cases were recorded in Darjeeling (681), while the neighbouring hill district Kalimpong reported 92 cases in the last 24 hours. 

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