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Nursing Homes Are Breeding Grounds for this Fatal Fungus

Posted On December 25, 2020

A drug-resistant and deadly fungus called Candida auris is spreading in Illinois nursing homes, making it important for staff to take preventative measures to stop outbreaks. This fungus resists most antifungal medication and antibiotics and can result in death within 90 days. Without appropriate steps, this fungus can spread throughout a nursing facility quickly after it is introduced. Nursing homes should make sure that hygiene and sanitation practices are thorough and implemented correctly, and should separate any resident who is diagnosed with Candida auris to prevent its spread.

Why Candida Auris Is Dangerous

While other types of Candida can be easily treated with antifungal medications, Candida auris resists treatment. This fungus was initially discovered in Asia and has since spread to the U.S. Multiple outbreaks have occurred in health care and nursing facilities. This fungus can infect multiple parts of the body simultaneously, including the blood, ears, and lungs. In rooms where patients with this fungus are housed, tests have shown that the fungus is present everywhere, including on the walls, floors, and ceilings. Candida auris can cause death within months. It also spreads easily and quickly. In 2019, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 154 people had died of Candida auris and that it was spreading in Chicago-area nursing homes.

What Nursing Homes Should Do

It is imperative that nursing homes ensure that sanitation and hygiene protocols meet guidelines and are thorough. If a resident is diagnosed with Candida auris, nursing facilities need to take preventative steps to stop outbreaks. Nursing homes must be in constant contact with the patient’s health care provider to ensure that they carefully follow the recommended treatment regimen. They must keep the patient separated from other residents. It is a good idea for the nursing home to have a dedicated staff person to work solely in the room with the infected resident. That person should not be tasked with caring for other residents to reduce the chance of spreading the fungus. Hand hygiene practices should be strictly followed, and nursing homes should follow contact, entry, and exit precautions. The patient’s room and all instruments should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected daily. If the patient is moved to a new facility, information about the patient’s diagnosis should be carefully communicated. Finally, if several residents contract the fungus, the same staff should work with them and no one else.

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