Exclusive: Kashmir’s unreported Black Fungus infections killed at least 3 people

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The cases of Black Fungus were detected in Kashmir valley last year and at least three patients infected with it had died and the survivors lost their eye-sight, The Kashmir Walla has learnt.

The outbreak of the rare fungal infection was kept under wraps so far and not reported by the healthcare administration, which has mostly remained quiet since the pandemic began in March last year.

Two senior healthcare officials confirmed to The Kashmir Walla that patients suffering with Mucormycosis or the Black Fungus were admitted last year to Srinagar Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, one of the biggest COVID care facilities in Kashmir region.

Medical Superintendent SMHS Hospital, Kanwarjeet Singh, said there were cases of Black Fungus last year and they were admitted in the hospital’s ENT department.

“It was somewhere in March … (such patients) could also have gone to SKIMS Soura and SKIMS Bemina where the ENT department is available,” Singh said.

It was not immediately clear if any cases were also admitted at SKIMS Soura and SKIMS Bemina.

The officials said at least six cases of mucormycosis or black fungus had arrived during the first wave of COVID-19 at SMHS hospital’s ENT Department.

Out of these patients, three had died “due to delay in the treatment”, said Rauf Ahmad, Head of the Department of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat, or the ENT) at SMHS Hospital. “Rest of the patients survived because their surgeries were done and black fungus was removed,” he said.

He said the eyes of these patients could only be cosmetically saved and the vision could not be saved.

Black fungus is a rare kind of fungal infection with a mortality rate of 50 per cent. It is potentially life-threatening for patients with diabetes or for those who are immunocompromised.

The patients admitted in SMHS with black fungus had several symptoms including swollen eyes, loss of vision, black scars on face and nose and gangerian, said Ahmad. “The biggest reason for black fungus in all of these patients was high diabetes and large intake of steroids,” he said.

Ahmad said that there is no recent case of Black Fungus till now among the patients in the second wave. He, however, warned it happens during their recovery phase. “We usually get these cases during six to eight weeks of recovery. There hasn’t been any case yet,” he said.

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