May 24, 2021 - World

India hit by "black fungus" infections as COVID death toll tops 300,000

An attendant is seen next to a patient who recovered from the Covid-19 and now infected with Black Fungusat the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur on May 21

A health worker with a patient who recovered from COVID-19 only to be infected with Black Fungus at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur, India, on Friday. Photo: Uma Shankar Mishra/AFP via Getty Images

Health officials in India are scrambling to contain a potentially fatal fungal infection affecting people being treated for or who've recovered from COVID-19, as the official coronavirus death toll surpassed 300,000 on Monday.

Why it matters: Mucormycosis, the "black fungus" infection, is still quite rare, with some 9,000 cases as of Saturday, per NDTV. But Indian health services are overstretched treating COVID-19 patients, with oxygen and other supplies running out in many places amid sluggish vaccine deliveries, AP notes.

  • Mucormycosis has been declared an "epidemic" by health officials in four states, the Times of India reports.
  • The mucormycosis death toll has not been disclosed, but local media have reported that 250 people have lost their lives to the infection, according to AP.

The big picture: India's health ministry confirmed the coronavirus had killed 4,454 more people in the past 24 hours, taking the total COVID-19 death toll to 303,720 — the third-highest in the world after the U.S. (589,893 deaths) and Brazil (449,068 deaths), per Johns Hopkins.

  • The ministry reported 222,315 new COVID-19 cases, taking India's official total to almost 27 million since the pandemic began.
  • Scientists and local health workers say the actual numbers are much higher.
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