Iraq records cases of lethal 'black fungus' infection in Covid-19 patients

Iraq's health service is already strained, with medical oxygen and ventilators in short supply

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Cases of the deadly black fungus infection, which is hitting India hard, have been recorded in Iraq, the country's Health Ministry said on Sunday.

"This disease is well-known and has existed for years now, can be easily diagnosed and can be treated," ministry spokesman Saif Al Badr told The National. 

“We are registering it among other consequences of Covid-19, but we are still seeing limited numbers nationwide.”

The country has only registered one death from black fungus in the southern city of Nasiriyah, he said, adding that there may have been a small number of other cases that were not registered.

Black fungus disease, also known as mucormycosis, is being reported to be increasing among patients recovering from Covid-19, mainly in India.

The rare disease, which has a 50 per cent mortality rate, has been linked to the overuse of steroids, which can affect the immune system, during the treatment of coronavirus.

Most vulnerable to the infection are patients with diabetes and those who are immunocompromised. It initially develops in the nasal passages and can later spread into the eyes and brain.

Treatment is often based on surgery, which can involve removing parts of the skull, jaw or even the eyes.

Iraq is still seeing a high number of coronavirus cases with daily numbers ranging from 3,000 to 4,000.

The country registered 3,154 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,221,678, according to Health Ministry figures.

The ministry also reported 30 deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 16,518.

Iraq’s vaccine rollout began in late March, but it has been faltering, mainly because of vaccine hesitancy among Iraqis.

As of Saturday, only 637,455 Iraqi citizens have been vaccinated. Iraq’s population stands at about 40 million people.

Authorities are still imposing a partial lockdown, from 9pm to 5am.

India has had about 12,000 cases and more than 300 deaths from black fungus in the past few months, according to the Indian Health Ministry.

Other countries have reportedly recorded many Covid-linked black-fungus cases, including Pakistan and Russia.

On May 25, Bangladesh reported its first death caused by black fungus.