INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Special hospital wards will be set up in India's capital New Delhi to fight 'black fungus', authorities said Thursday as the life-threatening infection surged among coronavirus patients.
A rare disease in normal times, authorities say thousands have developed Mucormycosis - or black fungus - across India as it battles a Covid-19 wave that has killed more than 100,000 people in the past month.
Some doctors say the high use of steroids to combat the coronavirus has caused the black fungus explosion.
The disease kills more than 50 percent of sufferers within days. In some cases, eyes and upper jaws are removed by surgeons to stop the spread of the infection.
New Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said special wards would be set up at three hospitals to handle the increased number of black fungus cases.
He also vowed to ensure that all patients will get the medicines they need, with anti-fungal drugs the latest shortage to hit India's already stretched healthcare system.
There are more than 200 black fungus patients in New Delhi hospitals, with dozens on waiting lists for beds, according to media reports.
Indian social media has been flooded with requests from relatives of Mucormycosis sufferers pleading for help to find medicines.
The Rajasthan and Telangana states have declared black fungus epidemics. Maharashtra state alone has reported more than 2,000 cases.
Authorities have not been able to give a figure for Mucormycosis deaths since the coronavirus wave hit six weeks ago.
Black fungus is caused by organisms called mucormycetes, which can enter the body through breathing or skin injuries.
These are naturally present in soil and decaying organic matter, but once inside humans, they can infect air pockets behind the forehead, nose, cheekbones and between the eyes and teeth.
Some doctors say there has been panic use of steroids to combat Covid-19 which has helped the spread of black fungus.
Coronavirus patients with diabetes and a weakened immune system are particularly prone to black fungus.
Many of the drugs used to fight the coronavirus suppress the body's immune system that would normally ward off a fungal infection.
The prevalence of diabetes in India is among the highest in the world.