Candida auris: It’s time to worry

This story is scarier than any science fiction. It real, and is an active threat. And government and hospitals are hiding that information from you. The threat has existed in the US for more than 3 years.

Candida auris is a fungal infection found in hospitals and extended care facilities across the globe. It requires extraordinary efforts to sanitize facilities once it arrives, and there is no known treatment or cure. When it moves into the blood stream among people with reduced immune systems, it kills most victims within 90 days. No one knows the source of this fungus. However, it can live on a person’s skin, on furnishings, even on ceiling and floor tiles. People can carry the fungus without showing symptoms.

Countries with Candida auris
Source: The New York Times

The fungus is in the US. There have been 617 confirmed cases to date. The known cases are concentrated in nursing homes in

  • New York (100+)
  • New Jersey (100+)
  • Illinois (100+)
  • Maryland
  • Indiana
  • Virginia
  • Florida (50+)
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • California

The CDC has added the fungus to a list of “urgent threats.”

On June 24, 2016, the C.D.C. blasted a nationwide warning to hospitals and medical groups and set up an email address, candidaauris@cdc.gov, to field queries. Dr. Snigdha Vallabhaneni, a key member of the fungal team, expected to get a trickle — “maybe a message every month.”

Instead, within weeks, her inbox exploded.(1)

The problem is that we also know that hospitals in other states have had cases. One victim became ill overseas and was transferred to a hospital in Connecticut, and then to a hospital in Texas, where she died. We don’t know where else the fungus lives. We don’t know which medical facilities have been tested for this unless they tell us. And most haven’t.

The US states are not making this information public. They are not requiring hospitals and medical offices to notify the public. Nor is the Federal government. We don’t know what facilities have been infected, and what steps they have taken to resolve the problem.

It’s a big deal:

All the while, the germs are easily spread — carried on hands and equipment inside hospitals; ferried on meat and manure-fertilized vegetables from farms; transported across borders by travelers and on exports and imports; and transferred by patients from nursing home to hospital and back.(1)

It’s extremely hard to kill:

The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C. auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.

“Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump,” said Dr. Scott Lorin, the hospital’s president. “The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.”(1) [tested positive for the fungus]

It’s way past time for honesty in government and healthcare. People have a right to know if they are being treated at a facility that has an active infection, and they should have the right to avoid using such a facility until the infection is confirmed as cleared.

Mount Sinai took the required steps to eradicate the infection at its facility and made a public statement about the infection. How about your hospital, nursing home, or other medical office? Do they even know if they have it? Do you?

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/health/drug-resistant-candida-auris.html?emc=edit_na_20190406&nl=breaking-news&nlid=57250219ing-news&ref=cta
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/candida-auris/index.html

9 comments

  1. Your post is powerful. Hospital acquired infections are all to common and tolerated to some extent. This one though is deadly and the post is ominous to think about. I hope you are wrong but I have seen fungal infection and it’s effect on brain functioning and well-being. It is not something from which one recovers fully.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The notion of the government hiding information from the public is strictly unacceptable. This is far too serious. And of course, there’s always the question, what medical office or facility has been visited by someone carrying Candida auris? Unless there’s active monitoring of waiting rooms and common areas, who knows? And no, that monitoring doesn’t exist is most places.

    Like

    • I don’t think the data supports a link with smart phones. That’s especially true with the higher incidence among older, nursing home patients, who, in the US, simply don’t have those phones around (they get stolen). Candida auris can cling to a variety of surfaces and materials that most hospitals don’t necessarily worry about, including porcelain sinks, carpets, drapes, floor tiles. Further, people can transport the fungus from one location to another without showing symptoms. Frankly, without massive testing, we don’t know where this fungus is.

      The other issue with the cell phone argument is that its based on the infection being found in affluent countries. The problem with that is
      (1) Affluent countries tend to import a variety of goods that can carry the fungus.Poor countries can’t afford to import as much.
      (2) Affluent countries have the money to test for the presence of the fungus. Poorer countries don’t. Countries that haven’t tested belong in the category of “don’t know if the fungus is there” rather than it’s not there. In the absence of testing, it’s easy to attribute deaths to other causes. For that matter, we know where we’ve identified the fungus in the US, but that may not tell us where the fungus is.

      Is some other posts, I’ve mentioned the issues in trying to use correlational analysis to discuss causality. It’s a huge problem with bid data these days.

      Like

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    Like

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