Patients in metro hospitals particularly vulnerable

Fatal Fungus Spreading, No Cure Foreseen




A deadly fungal infection is festering in New York City hospitals, leading to speculation that patients at East End facilities may be in harm’s way.

Candida auris, a deadly and drug-resistant “superbug” has infiltrated the metropolitan area, with more than 300 of the 600 cases charted as of the end of March in city-area health facilities.

Brittany Behn, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control, said the fungus “appeared on the international scene in 2015. We’ve been tracking it since 2016.” Officials said the high amount of international traffic is probably responsible for the upswing in cases here.

The fungus tends to prey on the sick and elderly, she said, and has proven particularly resilient. “It is resistant to anti-fungal medicine. It spreads among the sicker patients. The average patient doesn’t seem at risk.”

According to the New York State Department of Health, symptoms include chills, fever, and discomfort in the ears.

A CDC report found the genetic profile of the fungus in almost all the NYC cases “highly similar,” and it matches a strain in South Asia. The fungus took different forms in other locations. Cases in New Jersey were also similar to cases in South Asia, but altered slightly from cases in New York. And in Illinois cases, the strain was similar to one detected in South America.

The concern is the fungus is still spreading rapidly within city hospitals and there is interaction with East End hospitals through shared patient services.

Investigators swabbed down patients’ rooms for signs of the fungus in recent visits to various hospitals. They found it everywhere — on “mattresses, beds, windowsills, chairs, infusion pumps and countertops.” But after a “thorough cleaning” of the room “with a sodium hypochlorite-based disinfectant,” they said, traces of the superbug “disappeared,” according to the report.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, the Division Chief of Pediatric Infections for Stony Brook University Hospital reiterated that victims would unlikely be moved to another hospital because of their age and fragility. Of more concern is that it “spreads too easily,” she said.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com