New York health officials have released a list of local medical facilities that have treated patients with a drug-resistant superbug called Candida auris. Between January 2016 and June 2019, 64 hospitals, 103 nursing homes, one long-term hospital, and three hospice centers have received people afflicted with the fungus, for at a total of 171 facilities statewide.
New York is the first state to release this information: So far, infection sites have been kept under wraps, but as Health Commissioner Howard Zucker explained to the NY Times, the names should be made public "to help [consumers] make an educated decision for their life or someone dear to them." That's not to say that the facilities on the list have not contained the fungus — Zucker clarified that many of them likely have — but due to the rapid nature of the virus's spread, it's also just helpful to keep a detailed log: "If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it."
C. auris is a fungus resistant to most drugs, making it extremely difficult to treat successfully. It typically spreads in healthcare environments among people whose immune systems have already been compromised, from contact with an infected person or a contaminated surface. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every three people who come down with a C. auris infection — symptoms of which include fever and chills — will die. Until now, public health officials have kept the infection numbers to themselves, potentially out of fear that disclosure would create pandemonium and deter people from seeking medical attention when they need it.
Loretta Willis, vice president for quality advocacy with the Healthcare Association of New York and a nurse, expressed precisely this concern to the Times: "Without a fuller understanding about what’s happening and what’s going on with these emerging infections, it may cause unnecessary panic," Willis said. "I’m worried it will be taken out of context." Hospitals and nursing homes should be equipped to handle dangerous germs, and many do so effectively, she continued. But if people read a facility's name on the list, Willis fears they might refuse to go there. Still, the Times reports that, of the 806 C. auris cases confirmed nationwide, nearly half — 388 — have been diagnosed in New York.
Also on Wednesday, the CDC released a report on the rise of drug-resistant pathogens nationwide. According to the CDC, these microbes infect an annual 2.8 million people, 35,000 of whom will die as a result. The death rate has actually dropped about 18 percent since 2013, the last year this report was issued, in large part due to heightened awareness and prevention measures undertaken in hospitals. So! Do your bit: "Infection prevention and control in health care facilities work,” Michael Craig, M.P.P., from the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, said in a statement. “Improving the use of antibiotics we already have works. Proper food handling works. Safe sex works. Vaccines and keeping hands clean work.”
Which is to say, always wash your hands!!
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to the fungus as a virus in two places.