Hyderabad: A WhatsApp forward about the black fungus infection affecting everyone has gone viral on social media. Black fungus is the colloquial name given to the fungal infection referred to as 'rhino-orbital-cerebral mucormycosis and zygomycosis.
In the text, the forward claimed that black fungus can affect anyone and it damages the brain and can be prevented by maintaining proper hygiene and using masks that have to be washed daily with soap and Dettol to avoid sweating, which is claimed to help in the spread and growth of fungus. NIMS doctors are said to be the source of the information.
Claims: Black fungus affects everyone and is caused by sweating while wearing masks
NewsMeter looked through various articles and academic reports regarding the black fungus infection and all of them stated that the infection occurs in people with a feeble immune system and not everyone is susceptible to it.
"Mucormycosis is a rare, invasive, fungal opportunistic infection that causes serious, sometimes fatal disease," Dr K.C. Rondello, epidemiologist and special adviser to the Office of University Health and Wellness at Adelphi University told Healthline.
He explained that those at risk for mucormycosis have compromised immune systems that make them susceptible to fungal and other opportunistic infections. As per ICMR guidelines, patients with comorbidities, or those taking medications that suppress their immunity to fight off environmental pathogens are most likely to be susceptible to the ills of black fungus.
Over the last 10-years, doctors have only seen a handful of mucormycosis cases in India, reported USA Today.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people with conditions of AIDS, burns, diabetes (usually poorly controlled), leukemia and lymphoma, long-term steroid use, metabolic acidosis, and Poor nutrition (malnutrition) are people with a weak immune system and more likely to develop mucormycosis.
Meanwhile, Immune-suppressing steroids, prescribed to reduce COVID-19 induced inflammation are a cause as it can leave people vulnerable to fungal infections. Hence not all are susceptible to black fungus infection.
This rebukes the claim that usage of masks is directly related to spread and growth of black fungus and the claim that sweating can lead to black fungus. Although unhygienic surroundings are said to be an issue, it was only in relation to an incident where COVID-19 patients were put on prolonged oxygenation support by using contaminated water. Sweating due to masks being a cause of black fungus is false.
The claim that black fungus can be prevented by maintaining mask hygiene, like soaking masks in soap and Dettol or drying them in the sun, is also FALSE.
Claim: Black fungus infection affects the brain
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) the symptoms of mucormycosis depend on where the fungus is growing.
Symptoms of rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis include:
• One-sided facial swelling
• Nasal or sinus congestion
• Black lesions on nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth that quickly become more severe
Among the COVID-19 patients in India, rhinocerebral mucormycosis, after infecting a person, the fungus doesn't remain static but spreads through the nose, attacks the eyes, and eventually reaches the brain, at which point it becomes potentially deadly.
Hence, the claim that black fungus affects the brain is TRUE.
Claim: NIMS doctors are the source of the information
In conclusion, the viral claims regarding the cause and the preventive measures for the black fungus infection are mostly FALSE.
Meanwhile, in the above photograph, there are no credible sources mentioned apart from the name of apparent Doctors & a 'HOD' without the mention of the organization where they practice medicine.
Therefore, both messages are unreliable and FALSE.