Potentially fatal fungal infection hits Covid-19 patients in India

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar, India, May 10 (EFE).- A potentially fatal fungal infection is hitting Covid-19 patients in India, officials said on Monday, adding to the health woes in the second-worst affected country by the coronavirus.

The latest health worry came as India on Monday added 366,161 new coronavirus cases, recording a slight dip from a peak of more than 400,000 daily infections over the previous five days. The death toll grew by 3,754 to take the overall tally of fatalities to 246,116.

Doctors in Delhi, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have found many recovered Covid-19 patients with the rare fungal infection known as mucormycosis.

It prompted the health authorities to issue an “evidence-based advisory for screening, diagnosis, and management” of the disease, also called the “black fungus.”

“The fungal infection mainly affects people who are on medication for other health problems that reduces their ability to fight environmental pathogens,” the advisory said, warning that mucormycosis might turn fatal “if uncared for.”

The advisory said the infection, which has an overall mortality rate of 50 percent, might be triggered by the use of steroids for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

“What predisposes (is) uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression by steroids, prolonged ICU stay, and comorbidities – post transplant/malignancy and voriconazole therapy.”

The new disease has further threatened India’s already-collapsing healthcare infrastructure as hospitals grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen and beds amid a steady rise in daily coronavirus infections.

Morgues and crematoriums have been overflowing with soaring deaths even as experts believe that India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported by the government.

The health ministry reported a decline in the number of new cases compiled on Monday morning as compared to the last five days.

India’s overall caseload now stands at 22.66 million, the second-highest after the United States.

The total number of tests done during the previous day was over 1.47 million, the lowest this month, which could have caused a dip in daily infection figures on Monday.

According to the data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an average of 1.8 million tests was carried out daily in the last five days when the country reported over 400,000 cases a day.

The number of active cases in India stands at 3.74 million, with a 22.7 percent positivity rate, which indicates the severity of the pandemic.

A month ago, the positivity rate was just 10.3 percent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the pandemic under control in a country if the positivity rate is below the threshold of five percent.

To lower the rate, India needs to increase the number of tests conducted daily.

However, laboratories and hospitals across many cities are overwhelmed with long queues, causing unprecedented delays in the Covid-19 test results.

The delay has triggered a big pileup of pending tests that have prevented disease control and quick identification and isolation of infected persons.

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