NEW DELHI: Amid reports of deadly fungal infection in recovering coronavirus patients leading to loss of eyesight, the Centre on Tuesday said COVID-19 can either be a mild disease without any symptom or a serious one with complications like these which have not occurred before.
ENT surgeons at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) here had reported that they had seen 13 cases of "COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis" in the last 15 days. This alarming affliction, although rare, is not new. What is new is COVID-19 triggering mucormycosis, they said on Monday. Black fungus or mucormycosis has been a cause of disease and death of patients in transplants, and ICU and immunodeficient individuals since long. However, it is the rapid increase in the numbers seen in unsuspected recovering COVID-19 patients that is causing the grave concern," the SGRH said in a statement on Monday.
"In the last 15 days, ENT surgeons have seen 13 cases of COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis in over 50 per cent patients, with loss of eyesight, and removal of nose and jaw bone needed," it said.
When asked to comment about the development, V K Paul, NITI Aayog member (Health) said at a press briefing here, "Yes, we are aware (of this). This is a fungal disease. In diabetics particularly, even before COVID-19, this has been there. This is quite a devastating disease. There is a deep infection. The cure for this is not easy."
"As there is an all-round systemic spread in COVID-19, there is a depression in functioning of organs, so as we get more information about COVID-19, some things have come to the fore. This is a new information that has come to the fore. We have to be careful," he said.
"While COVID-19 can be a mild disease by itself, it can be without any symptom or even be a serious disease with serious complications like this which have not occurred before," the official added.
The SGRH authorities had said mortality is currently being seen in the range of 50 per cent (five patients), with certain deaths when there is involvement of brain.
Doctors had to do these resections in about 10 patients over the last fortnight, with "about 50 per cent losing their eyesight permanently".
Five of these patients required critical care support due to associated complications.
There also have been five mortalities so far in this subgroup, they said.
According to Manish Munjal, senior ENT surgeon, at the hospital, "The frequency with which we are witnessing the occurrence of COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis with high morbidity and mortality has never been seen before and is shocking and alarming."
Varun Rai, consultant ENT surgeon at SGRH said, "Early clinical suspicion on symptoms such as nose obstruction, swelling in the eye or cheeks, and black dry crusts in the nose should immediately prompt the conduct of a biopsy in the OPD and start of the antifungal therapy as early as possible."