As many as 303 people in Karnataka have succumbed to mucormycosis, a post-Covid fungal infection, with 104 of them in Bengaluru alone, statistics recorded by the Department of Health indicated.
As many as 3,514 patients from across the state have been diagnosed (till July 11) with the disease that often manifests in the skin and affects the lungs and the brain. The fatality rate (CFR) of the infection is 8.62 per cent, which is over thrice the CFR (2.83 per cent) observed among Covid-19 patients in the state.
While Bengaluru reported 1,120 cases of the fungal infection, other districts that witnessed most cases were Dharwad (279), Vijayapura (210), Kalaburagi (199), and Belagavi (159).
State Health Director Om Prakash Patil told indianexpress.com that directions have been given to all concerned officials to ascertain the source of infection and take proper containment measures to avoid more cases. “All these cases have been observed in patients who had recovered from Covid-19. Officials have been directed to step up surveillance measures and to ensure timely treatment to all,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Pradeep Rangappa, Senior Consultant at Critical Care, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur, said several risk factors can lead to the infection. “Hygiene, source of oxygen and the sterility of equipment used, uncontrolled or undetected diabetes, use of inappropriate steroids in high doses and not stopping it in a timely way are some of them,” he explained.
Patil shared a similar insight into the data collected from across the state. “Mucormycosis infection has been observed mostly in diabetic patients with high sugar levels and among others who had immunocompromised conditions,” he said.
However, Dr Rangappa suggested that the effect of the infection or the possibility of one getting infected could be mitigated by following various measures. “Strict sanitisation of the oxygen delivery equipment used, using only sterile water in humidifiers, general hygiene, good control of diabetes, and appropriate use of steroids adhering to state protocols are highly recommended. Regular ENT checkup prior to discharge from the hospital to identify any early signs of mucor infection is also important,” he added.
At the same time, Dr Rohit Udaya Prasad, Consultant, ENT and Hearing Implantology at Aster RV Hospital, said Mucormycosis is among the deadlier co-infections to occur along with secondary bacterial infections. “Due to its nature to cause tissue death and spread to the eye and brain from the nose, the fungal infection has a higher post-Covid morbidity, mortality, and disfigurement apart from the side effects of anti-fungal treatment,” he said.
Incidentally, mucormycosis is not common outside India. When asked what the driving factor behind the infection in the country — especially in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat — would be, Dr Prasad cited it to India’s identity as the ‘diabetes capital’ of the world. “With the spread of Covid-19 during the second wave, and the heightened use of steroids to save lives, many had to bear the brunt of mucormycosis during and after Covid. Further, with certain states like Karnataka being more overcrowded, compromised hygiene factors at home and hospital have contributed towards the same,” he said.
Dr Prasad also noted the overburdened healthcare system as another reason behind the high fatality rate. “There is only so much that the medical infrastructure in India can take as handling the pandemic had already put the healthcare system on the brink of collapse,” he said.
He added that the elderly with uncontrolled diabetes needed to be more careful of their health. “Caretakers must keep a close watch on the blood sugar control,” he advised.
Meanwhile, as many as 2,473 patients are under treatment in various hospitals across all 30 districts in the state. Only five districts have reported the infection in single-digit numbers. These include Ramanagara (9), Chikkamgaluru, Uttara Kannada (8 each), Yadgir (3), and Kodagu (1).
“While such cases were initially reported from Bengaluru more, it has now moved towards other tier-2 and tier-3 cities. As this is expected to stretch the public infrastructure more, the government has planned to rope in private hospitals as well to ensure treatment is offered on a timely basis,” a senior health official said.