A highly-contagious and drug-resistant fungus has reportedly infected nearly 800 people in the U.S. over the last four years, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Of the 800 people infected, half of the patients died within 90 days.

Candida Auris is a fungus that grows similar to yeast. Candidiasis is typically acquired in hospitals, nursing homes, or other long-term care facilities by patients with weakened immune systems. It can enter a person’s bloodstream and spread throughout their body, causing a serious and sometimes fatal infection.

The New York Times article explains that nursing homes are playing a key role in the spread of Candida Auris. In New York alone, at least 396 people have been affected and an additional 496 are carrying the germ without showing symptoms.

“In Chicago, half of patients living on dedicated ventilator floors in the city’s skilled nursing homes are infected with or harboring C. auris on their bodies,” Dr. Allison Arwady, the acting commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Health said in the article.

Many health care professionals are blaming the overuse of antibiotics for the rise of drug-resistant infections. They also say long-term care facilities like nursing homes are a weak link in the spread of such infections due to them being understaffed and ill-equipped to control infections. The article explains that it’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that continually cycle infected patients, sending them to hospitals and then back to nursing home facilities again.

Other issues at long-term care facilities include:

  • Not using disposable gowns
  • Failing to use latex gloves or failure to
    dispose of them frequently
  • Not using masks
  • Lack of communication amongst residents or not
    posting warning signs about infections
  • Understaffing
  • Improper cleaning
  • Cross-contamination

Because of this lack of procedure, drug-resistant infections have become a global epidemic amongst elderly residents at long-term care facilities.

The CDC lists standard procedures on its website to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Standard precautions include:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Using proper protective equipment
  • Following respiratory hygiene
  • Appropriate patient placement
  • Proper cleaning and disinfectant
  • Proper laundry procedures
  • Safe injection procedures
  • Surgical masks
  • Worker safety procedures

If a patient has a known infection, other steps should be taken such as:

  • Proper patient placement including potential quarantine
  • Disposable protective equipment
  • Limit transport of infected patient
  • Disposable patient-care equipment such as blood pressure cuffs
  • Prioritizing cleaning and disinfection of rooms

Infectious outbreaks are common in nursing homes and long-term care facilities because of failure to use proper infectious control techniques.

Read the full New York Times article here.  

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