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Coronavirus Explainers

Coronavirus Explained: What Is White Fungus Infection And How It Affects COVID-19 Patients

White fungus infection occurs mainly among immunocompromised people – COVID-19 positive patients, those with uncontrolled diabetes and people on a high dose of steroids

Coronavirus Explained What Is White Fungus Infection And How It Affects COVID-19 Patients
Highlights
  • Similar to Black Fungus, the White Fungus is a fungal infection
  • White Fungus infection infects people with compromised immunity
  • From skin to lungs, the White Fungus can infect any part of the body

New Delhi: After the central government on May 20 asked states to notify Black Fungus or Mucormycosis an epidemic, Bihar’s Patna reported four cases of White Fungus. Amid a continuous rise in COVID-19 cases and cases of Black Fungus as well, the report of a new fungal infection is a cause for concern. However, as per experts, there is no need to panic or worry. Similar to Black Fungus, the White Fungus is a fungal infection, being found in COVID-19 patients with compromised immunity. It’s not a novel infection; it has been around for a while and only a handful of cases have been reported so far. Here’s everything else you need to know about White Fungus infection.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explained: What Is Mucormycosis Or Black Fungus And How It Affects COVID-19 Patients

What Is White Fungus And Who Is At A Higher Risk Of Contracting It?

Fungus or any other infection is all around us; it’s in the environment. It’s only when someone’s immunity is low, they become prone to the infection. As the name suggests, the White Fungus is a fungal infection that occurs mainly among immunocompromised people this includes COVID-19 positive people, those with uncontrolled diabetes and people on a high dose of steroids, explains Dr Rajesh Parikh, Director, Medical Research at Jaslok Hospital and the author of ‘The Vaccine Book for COVID-19’.

Watch: COVID-19 And Mucormycosis Or Black Fungus Infection: All You Need To Know

What Are The Symptoms Of White Fungus Infection?

Dr Om Srivastava, Director Infectious Disease, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre said the symptoms will depend on which part of the body is affected. White fungus infection can spread to any part of the body including skin, tongue, brain, digestive system, kidney, brain and genitals.

If the infection reaches the digestive tract then an individual can face difficulty in eating and swallowing food. If the infection is inside head or skull then the symptoms will be headache and nausea, explained Dr Srivastava who is also a member of Mumbai’s COVID-19 taskforce.

Also Read: Fungal Infection Among COVID-19 Patients Explained: What Is Yellow Fungus?

Some of the common symptoms as shared by Dr Mugdha Tapdiya, Senior Consultant, Internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj – Delhi are white patches on skin, white tongue, diarrhoea, hypoxia (low oxygen saturation levels) even after recovery from COVID-19, among others.

Why Are COVID-19 Patients At A Higher Risk Of Contracting White Fungus Infection?

Experts reiterated that the white fungus infection is not limited to COVID-19 patients. Anyone with compromised immunity like elderly people, cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy, HIV positive people, and those with uncontrolled diabetes.

Fungal infection occurs where there is a decrease in immunity for any reason including excessive use of antibiotics which can result in a slight reduction in immune responses of people thereby predisposing them to infections, said Dr Srivastava.

Also Read: Proning Do’s And Don’ts, What Experts Have To Say

The COVID-19 infection attacks an individual’s immune response. What adds to that is the use of steroids in moderate to severe cases which can further affect immunity and increase blood sugar levels.

Dr Tapdiya said that the improper use of oxygen cylinders can also result in infections. She said,

When there was an extreme shortage of oxygen for COVID-19 patients, people were using whatever kind of cylinder they got. Firstly, one should only use oxygen cylinders approved for medical use. Secondly, use a humidifier bottle to humidify oxygen. Thirdly, water used in humidifier should be sterilised.

Also Read: COVID-19 Explainer: All You Need To Know About Oxygen Concentrators

How To Prevent And Treat White Fungus Infection?

For prevention, Dr Parikh suggested three things – judicious use of steroids; controlled diabetes; basic preventive measures like masking and hand hygiene. Elaborating on the use of steroids, Dr Parikh said,

A knife in a hand of a skilled surgeon can heal but in the hand of butcher, it can hurt. Steroids should only be used in moderate to severe cases and the dosage should not exceed 6 milligrams per dose for 10 days. In certain cases, we may have to give a higher dose and for a longer time but that’s the decision of the treating doctor; patients should not decide on their treatment. If steroids are given early on, in the infection, then these increase the chance of infection as steroids suppress the immunity.

Experts also called for early detection for timely treatment of the infection. The treatment involves the usage of anti-fungal agents given either intravenously or orally.

White fungus is an opportunistic infection. It flourishes in bodies with low immunity. Let’s not hype the infection or be scared of it. Just be cautious and stay in touch with your treating doctor, said Dr Tapdiya.

Watch: Dos And Don’ts Of Using Steroids In COVID-19 Treatment

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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