ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted of an increase in drug-resistant fungal infections, specifically Candida Auris.
Candida Auris — according to the CDC — can cause deadly, drug-resistant infections in hospitalized patients. The disease differs from other fungal infections due to the strong resistance to antibiotics that are commonly used against diseases like it.
URMC Professor of Infectious Diseases Dr. Paul Garman explained why the resistance of this infection to treatment is so important.
“It’s more resistant to those drugs than the other types of Candida that we’re used to seeing. It’s really this difficulty in treating it,” Dr. Garman told News 8. “It’s been found that 30% to 40% of [people who have had infections with Candida Auris] may die within a month of those infections. Now, it may not only be Candida Auris that’s causing their death, because these are people who may be very ill and disabled to begin with. Nonetheless, it is not a prospect that we welcome to have infections that become increasingly hard to treat. And that’s really what the word is here.”
Dr. Garman says the concern of Candida Auris is nothing new. However, the increase in cases over the years, mixed with the difficulty in which there is to treat cases.
“There’s been concern about Candida Auris for several years, that it’s been increasing,” Dr. Garman said. “It is a type of fungus, it’s a yeast, that is closely related to other types of yeast, which are very common in humans, we deal with those infections all the time. But this Candida Auris is much more difficult to treat. And it’s hard to eradicate it from the environment in healthcare settings. So that’s the concern that it can spread in health care facilities. And it has been doing so for the last three or four years.”
Most cases, according to Governor Hochul’s statement, have been found in healthcare facilities in the New York City region. However, Dr. Garman says a handful of cases have hit Rochester.
“I think a few [cases] in each of the large hospitals here, as far as I’m aware, and these cases have, for the most part, been important to us,” Dr. Garman told News 8. “That is, patients who have come to us from hospitals and other cities, they’ve come to be closer to family or whatever the case may be. But they’re not new cases or transmissions that are happening in our hospitals, at least to this point, as far as we know.”
Candida Auris, according to Dr. Garman, is an infection that poses a serious threat to patients already weakened by other conditions. The population that healthcare centers are concerned about are those are already ill, are debilitated, the elderly, bedridden, especially in intensive care units in hospitals.
“This is why it’s an issue in nursing homes, and in hospitals,” Dr. Garman said. “It’s not so much something for the public, to be changing what they do from day to day. So, people who are healthy generally are not at risk from this organism. It’s not something we should be looking at in the same way we might look at COVID, or Influenza, where a whole community can be affected and disrupted and in big ways.”
Dr. Garman adds that concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic that a number of infections can spread in hospitals are more likely to do so. He says this is due to the strain COVID-19 placed on the healthcare system.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that would ever put strains on our healthcare institutions like COVID, lack of funding, in some cases, short staffing, people leaving health professions, because of burnout, all of those things, put strains that make it harder for us to protect against things like Candida Auris.”
Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted efforts that New York State has made to identify cases and take precautions to keep New Yorkers safe. As well as the NYS Department of Health working with health care facilities.
Health officials say although Candida Auris presents little danger to the general public, necessary precautions include hand washing, surface cleaning, and personal protective equipment.
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