'Black fungus' infection kills elderly man in Sulaimani following cases in southern Iraq
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local health authorities in the Kurdistan Region's province of Sulaimani on Tuesday announced the first known death from a condition known as "black fungus" of a man in his 70s who was suffering from diabetes.
"It is normal for the black fungus to spread in the world, especially among the elderly who are not immune," Director General of Health Protection in Sulaimani Rizgar Ali said to Kurdistan 24.
The condition, officially called mucormycosis, can lead to a blackening or other discolorations of the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood, among other symptoms.
Peter Collignon, who sits on the World Health Organization’s expert committee on antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases, told the Guardian that the condition "is very serious, has a high mortality, and you need surgery and lots of drugs to get on top of it once it takes hold."
"They’re a family of fungus that gets into your sinuses and deposit there, and they can get into the air spaces in your head,” Collignon explained. "And when your immune system can’t keep them under control they invade the base of your brain where it becomes a real problem, and really very serious."
Patients with weakened immune systems as a result of chronic conditions like diabetes and leukemia, or viruses like COVID-19, face the most risk.
Local authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah recently announced an earlier fatal case of black fungus there of another patient who also had diabetes, as well as three additional infections.
Hussein Riyad, the local provincial director of the Iraqi Health Directorate serving the area told the local News of Nasiriyah website, "There are no fears of the black fungus disease that has reached Dhi-Qar as it is a rare fungal disease, not a virus. It is not transmitted from one person to another and this means that it does not constitute an epidemic."
"This disease was present even before COVID-19," he concluded, "but it is rare."
Editing by John J. Catherine