Nursing Homes are Helping Spread Fatal Fungus Infections

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September 17, 2019

Candida auris, an extremely contagious drug-resistant fungus has now infected nearly 800 people in the United States since first discovered in this country four years ago. Half of those infected with the fungus died within 90 days of being diagnosed with the condition. And the worst part is that nursing homes are an extremely fertile breeding ground for the fungus which will no doubt continue to spread.

Decubitus Ulcers

“[Skilled nursing facilities]…are the dark underbelly of drug-resistant infection,” said Dr. Tom Chiller, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s fungal division. While true for all nursing homes, those which provide care for ventilated residents are particularly at risk, according to public health officials from cities, states and the federal government. While the incidence of numerous drug-resistant infections has continued to rise due in part to the overuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans in the general population, the alarming increase in the number of infections found in nursing homes and long-term hospitals is seen to be caused by chronic understaffing and poorly enforced infection control protocols at these facilities.

Further contributing to the problem is the fact that changes in the Medicare reimbursement rate for long-term hospitals have now made it financially attractive for investors to build and operate these facilities, which often lack the same rigorous infection control policies in place at traditional hospitals serving the general public.

The worst part of this problem though is that many skilled nursing and long-term hospital patients are continuously being recycled into and out of traditional hospitals where the chance of spreading these infections increases despite more vigilant infection policies.

I strongly recommend those of you who have a family member in either a skilled nursing facility or long-term hospital to contact the facility administrator to determine (1) whether any of the patient population is currently diagnosed with or quarantined for a drug-resistant infection and (2) to determine what infection control protocols are in place at the facility to prevent the spread of these deadly infections.