Mucormycosis fatality rate greater than that of COVID-19 in Karnataka

The mortality rate from mucormycosis or black fungus, a post-COVID complication, is higher than the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of COVID-19 in Karnataka.

While the State’s average CFR of COVID-19 is 1.2%, the mortality rate from mucormycosis has touched 7.8%. Till June 17, it had claimed 225 lives of the total 2,856 persons infected.

While 2,316 infected persons are undergoing treatment, 191 have been cured and 124 are reported to have left hospitals against medical advice, as per Health Department data. According to the data, Bengaluru Urban has 959 infected persons, the highest in the State. Of these, 825 are under treatment and 49 have recovered. As many as 72 persons have succumbed to the infection while 13 have left hospitals against medical advice here.

Although Dhaward has 229 infected persons (the second highest in the State) and 16 of them have succumbed, the mortality rate is highest in Chickballapur at 35.7%.

A rare but serious fungal infection, mucormycosis often manifests in the skin and also affects the lungs and brain. Although it is rarely seen in non-COVID immunocompromised people, it is now mainly seen as a post-COVID-19 complication among those who have uncontrolled diabetes and are immunocompromised following steroid treatment.

K. Bhujang Shetty, chairman of Narayana Nethralaya and member of the State’s expert committee on mucormycosis, said there was no need to panic as the root cause of the condition was uncontrolled diabetes, either pre-existing or drug/steroid-induced. “As the infection requires a multi-speciality treatment, involving ENT, ophthalmologists, neurosurgeons and general physicians, we have been referring cases to the designated hospitals.”

Sujatha B.L. Rathod, director of the State-run Minto Eye Hospital, said that of the 325 treated at the designated Bowring and Lady Curzon and Victoria Hospitals till June 15, 45 had suffered vision loss. Pointing out that Minto Hospital had seen 190 COVID-19 mucormycosis cases since May 11, Dr. Rathod said many patients were getting discharged from private hospitals after surgery and getting readmitted in government hospitals mainly because of the shortage of the expensive drugs needed.

Against advice

Although mucormycosis is a notifiable disease now, 124 patients have left hospitals against medical advice. Chikkanarasa Reddy, professor of Paediatrics at Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College and Research Institute, said this is mainly because patients get scared when doctors tell them that their infection has spread to the eyes and that they will suffer vision loss.

“We have seen many patients, especially from rural areas, who prefer to live with the infection rather than have their eye removed,” he said.

Two children — a 14-year-old girl from Ballari and a 11-year-old boy from Challakere in Chitradurga district — infected with post-COVID mucormycosis had been admitted for treatment at Bowring Hospital and are now doing well. However, both have lost vision in one eye.

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