New York Identifies Hospitals and Nursing Homes With Deadly Fungus
New York on Wednesday became the first state to release the names of the medical facilities that have treated patients with Candida auris, a deadly drug-resistant fungus, that has been spreading under a cloak of secrecy.
Sixty-four hospitals, 103 long-term care nursing homes, a long-term care hospital and three hospice units in New York have cared for patients with C. auris, the state health department reported. The heaviest concentration of patients was in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
The disclosure came on the same day as a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that nearly 35,000 Americans have been dying each year from drug-resistant infections, nearly double its previous estimate from six years ago.
“A lot of progress has been made but the bottom line is that antimicrobial resistance is worse than we previously thought,” said Michael Craig, the C.D.C.’s senior adviser on antibiotic resistance. “Every 11 seconds someone in the United States gets a resistant infection and someone dies every 15 minutes. It’s a problem that’s not going away any time soon.”
Candida auris is one of the newer and more mysterious examples of infections resistant to antimicrobial drugs. The New York Times has spent the past year documenting its rise as multiple governments declined to identify or confirm the names of hospitals and nursing homes with the presence of C. auris. Some hospitals, including major academic institutions, declined to discuss cases even when family members or physicians confirmed them.
New York health officials said they decided to break with that practice and disclose the names of the institutions with cases in the state because of how rapidly C. auris has spread. Their aim, they said, was to provide transparency to consumers and encourage hospitals and nursing homes to help stop its spread.
The state did not say how many cases were at each institution and did not identify patients.
The cases include patients who are infected and those who are “colonized,” which means they have it on their skin but are not showing symptoms. The state also listed several cases of patients who were possibly colonized.
The germ, which is typically resistant to one or more major antifungal medications, preys on people with compromised immune systems, and spreads with ease on equipment, clothing and skin.
About half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, although the patients are typically infirm and so it is not clear whether they die from the fungus or it merely is among an ultimately lethal combination of poor health factors. There have been 806 confirmed cases of C. auris infection in the United States; 388 are in New York.
In releasing the hospital and nursing home data, New York State officials implored patients not to avoid going to medical facilities just because they have treated C. auris patients. In fact, the hospitals and nursing homes listed may well be doing a good job of containing the fungus, said Dr. Howard Zucker, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.
At the same time, he said the germ has spread so quickly that hospitals and nursing homes need to acknowledge its presence and address it as they would other major drug-resistant infections tracked and made public by the state. Consumers, he argued, deserve to know “to help them make an educated decision for their life or someone dear to them.”
For hospitals and nursing homes, he said, there was a benefit, too. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” he said.
New York is the first state to provide such data, said Michael Osterholm, the director for infectious disease research and policy at the University of Minnesota, where he runs a clearinghouse for information on drug-resistant infection.
“One of the challenges we’ve had is this climate of secrecy,” he said. “I applaud this,” he added, “It’s potentially a game changer because of the unique nature and consequences of dealing with this infection.”
The new C.D.C. report, a comprehensive look at the nation’s battle against antimicrobial resistance, said that 2.8 million people are sickened each year in the United States from pathogens that have learned to outsmart antimicrobial drugs, an increase of 800,000 per year since the previous report was issued in 2013. Officials said the updated figures reflected advances in data collection made possible by electronic medical records.
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