Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar holds a meeting on Covid-19 and mucormycosis, in Mumbai.

As India battles with a new surge of Mucormycosis black fungus cases, there’s also a lot of misinformation surrounding the infection as well. The mere nature of the rising cases, especially post-Covid-19 is enough to scare people.

India has registered 11,717 cases of black fungus infection or Mucormycosis till May 25, with the maximum cases being reported from Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra. While Gujarat has logged 2,859 black fungus cases so far, Maharashtra has reported 2,770 cases, followed by 768 Mucormycosis cases in Andhra Pradesh, 752 in Madhya Pradesh, and 744 in Telangana. Together, these five states account for more than 65 percent of India’s total black fungus caseload. According to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the National Capital has reported 620 black fungus cases so far. But Union Minister Sadananda Gowda said on May 26 that there have been 119 Mucormycosis cases in Delhi.

Wouldn’t you be scared if you’re told the fungus causing the much dreaded Mucormycosis is present in the items at your house? What if you’re told the black fungus is in the vegetables you eat and in the refrigerator you store your food? Scary, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the rising proportion of cases has also fuelled disputed claims on social media. One such recent one made people believe that things in their home could be spreading scary fungal infections. The post roughly could be translated as “Beware while buying onions from the market and storing them in the refrigerator. The black grime or fungus often seen on the outer shell of the onions is toxic black fungus that causes Mucormycosis.” The viral claim further mentions that if people are not too careful, the black grime can spread if used while cooking curries or stored in the refrigerator’s cool settings. The writers of the post also claimed that the black mould can collect on the refrigerator surfaces and cause harm. Ever since the date of publishing, the post has been widely shared across platforms.

Not only is the claim completely untrue, but the mode of transmission for black fungus also isn’t through mere objects, or in this case, fruits or vegetables. For one, the fungi which form inside the refrigerator, the fungal grime present on onion shells are completely different from the black fungus infection. As per experts, the moulds which grow inside a refrigerator may be caused by some forms of bacteria, yeast. While they can be dangerous and cause contamination, they showcase nonspecific symptoms. The fungus, meanwhile, found on the onion shells is the result of a common fungus found in the soil. While it is pertinent that all vegetables be thoroughly washed before use, the fungus found on onions is rarely infectious. The black fungus infection, on the other hand, spreads in a very different manner and is many more times symptomatic. As per health experts, it carries a mortality rate of 50%.

There’s no truth to the matter of the black fungus infection is similar to the moulds growing in your refrigerator, or the onion. At a time like this, it is critical that we get our facts right, be aware of the symptoms and seek treatment at the earliest. If you have recently recovered from coronavirus, or experience symptoms such as black crust formation around the nose, excruciating headaches, swelling, redness, seek a doctor’s consultation at the earliest.

As per tweet of former president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dr Rajeev Jayadevan emphasized to look into the role of excessive usage of steam, intake of zinc supplement and combination antibiotics used to treat coronavirus in the black fungal outbreak. Dr Rajeev mentioned that the cocktail of antibiotics–Azithromycin, Doxycycline and Carbapenem–can increase the risk of fungal infection. “Fungi thrive in a zinc-rich environment, and mammalian cells try to keep zinc away from fungus to avoid infection”. “Steam in excess can damage the delicate mucus layer and even cause burns along the mucosa, making it easy for fungus to breach our natural defence. Burns caused 10-20% of past mucormycosis in India,” Jayadevan added.

Jayadevan stated that about 21 per cent of the patients analysed in the study were not diabetic and just about 52 per cent of the patients were on oxygen.

Mucormycosis, though not new to India, was not as rampant as it is at present. Health experts believe that the over-use of steroids, coupled with low immunity, and immune suppression following Covid-19 recovery has made people more vulnerable to contracting the black fungus infection.

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released guidelines for early detection of infection. It has advised that after recovering from coronavirus infection, patients or their caretaker should closely monitor and should not miss any warning signs and symptoms mentioned above, as the fungal infection is found to emerge even weeks or months after recovery. It also asked people to continue to wear masks while visiting dusty construction sites or crowded place, wearing shoes, long trousers, long sleeve shirts and gloves while gardening, moss or manure and to maintain personal hygiene, including thorough scrub baths to stave off the infection.

Amid the rising cases of black fungus infection in several states of India, a case of deadly Yellow Fungus infection has been reported from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. According to experts, Yellow Fungus is more dangerous than both Black Fungus and White Fungus. The infected patient is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital in Ghaziabad. A few days ago, four cases of White Fungus were reported in Patna, Bihar. White fungus is also more dangerous than black fungus and causes serious problems if left untreated. Black fungus was recently announced as an epidemic by 29 states in India.