Facebook posts falsely purport to show black fungus patients in Sri Lanka


Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

A photo of a man with a black growth on his face was shared on Facebook posts claiming the picture showed a case of mucormycosis – a black fungus infection – in eastern Sri Lanka Ampara city. The claim is wrong: the picture has already been spread in media reports of a black fungus outbreak in India amid a deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections. Doctors said that Ampara Fall was unrelated to black fungus. The Ministry of Health has announced that no Covid-related black fungus infections have been reported in Sri Lanka until May 2021.

The image was posted to this Facebook post on May 23, 2021 where it was shared more than 1,700 times.

The post contains a picture of a man with a black wound on his face and a caption that claims he shows a man in the city of Ampara in eastern Sri Lanka who suffers from a “black fungus”.

“In the meantime there is black mushroom disease in Ampara,” says the Sinhalese headline.

“I’m not sure, but they say the eyes must be removed if they are infected with black fungus disease. Everyone stays safe. A devastating situation in the making. “

Screenshot of the Facebook post from May 25, 2021

The claim was spread after India saw a surge in mucormycosis infections.

Previously very rare, mucormycosis is a very aggressive fungal infection and surgeons sometimes have to remove the patient’s eyes, nose, and jaw to prevent them from reaching the brain. The death rate is over 50 percent.

The Indian government has put numbers between 5,424 and 8,848 for the number across the country. Typically fewer than 20 cases are recorded each year.

Doctors say one of the reasons the “black fungus” infections exploded was the overuse of steroids in virus patients.

Here is an AFP explainer on the subject.

Similar claims were made on Facebook, for example here, here and here.

However, the claims are false.

A Google reverse image search of the photo in the misleading posts found the image went online in reports of black fungus infections in India in May 2021.

For example, it appears in this report by Athiban TV that was released on May 22, 2021.

“Black fungus affects 8,848 people across India,” the Tamil headline read.

Screenshot of the news report released on May 22, 2021

The Sri Lankan doctors said a man recently died of a fungal infection in Ampara, but it was not a black fungus.

“This claim is not true. The Ampara Hospital microbiologist confirmed with us that the death in question was caused by a common type of yeast, ”said Dr. Wajira Rajapakse, regional epidemiologist at the regional director of the health service in Ampara, told AFP.

The Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, told the local print shop Daily Mirror that the man’s death was not caused by black fungus disease.

The man suffered from tuberculosis and Covid-19, as well as a fungal infection, Fernandopulle said.

Sri Lanka has, according to this report, in which Dr. Hemantha Herath, quoted by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health, reported no cases of coronavirus-related “black fungus” until May 24, 2021.

The number of non-covid-related black fungus cases in 2021 matches the number of rare infection cases in recent years, the report adds.

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