Deadly germs, Lost cures: A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy
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Last May, an elderly man was admitted to the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital for abdominal surgery. A blood test revealed that he was infected with a newly discovered germ as deadly as it was mysterious. Doctors swiftly isolated him in the intensive care unit.
The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa.
Recently C. auris reached New York, New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add it to a list of germs deemed “urgent threats.”
The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C. auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.
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Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting. Some scientists cite evidence that rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.
Yet as the problem grows, it is little understood by the public — in part because the very existence of resistant infections is often cloaked in secrecy.
With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.
All the while, the germs are easily spread — carried on hands and equipment inside hospitals; ferried on meat and manure-fertilized vegetables from farms; transported across borders by travelers and on exports and imports; and transferred by patients from nursing home to hospital and back.
C. auris, which infected the man at Mount Sinai, is one of dozens of dangerous bacteria and fungi that have developed resistance. Yet, like most of them, it is a threat that is virtually unknown to the public.
Other prominent strains of the fungus Candida — one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections in hospitals — have not developed significant resistance to drugs, but more than 90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 percent are resistant to two or more drugs, the C.D.C. said.
Dr. Lynn Sosa, Connecticut’s deputy state epidemiologist, said she now saw C. auris as “the top” threat among resistant infections. “It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identity,” she said.
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One author of the article in Mycoses, a doctor at the hospital, said in an email that the hospital did not want him to speak to journalists because it “is concerned about the public image of the hospital.”
The secrecy infuriates patient advocates, who say people have a right to know if there is an outbreak so they can decide whether to go to a hospital, particularly when dealing with a nonurgent matter, like elective surgery.
“Why the heck are we reading about an outbreak almost a year and a half later — and not have it front-page news the day after it happens?” said Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a physician in Kentucky and board chairman of Health Watch USA, a nonprofit patient advocacy group. “You wouldn’t tolerate this at a restaurant with a food poisoning outbreak.”
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The old Irish friends and relatives used to believe that going to the hospital was a death sentence. Maybe they weren’t completely wrong. I used to think it was superstition; “sick people go to the hospital; sick people die; it’s the people; not the hospital”. Now I’m not so sure.
Again, like in the vaccine controversy, where the side effects are hidden and Big Pharma is insulated from lawsuits, the secrecy gives rise to “common sense”. If the experts will not tell us the truth, human beings will figure it out.
Like AIDS in the gay community, sometimes plain old ordinary dumb humans have to piece together the jigsaw puzzle.
With vaccines, I have personally seen the ravages of polio on a strong healthy child in my cousin William. When the polio vaccine was announced, my family lined up all their children for it. They also convinced the neighborhood. Skeptics were brought to visit William and they became converts.
That being said, the secrecy of the Gooferment aka CDC and FDA, along with the horror stories about autism skyrocketing, I understand parents’ reluctance to make their children “lab rats”. Maybe, if they could trust the “medical establishment”, then the fear would be palpable.
What do we have to do to correct this situation?
- Politicians and bureaucrats must be dragged to the discussion. Kicking and screaming if need be. Transparency is the order of the day. Facts cure ignorance and fear. Let’s admit that there is a problem. This is America, home of the brave. Let’s face our fears with bravery and courage. To do that we need leaders to stand up and tell the “hard facts of life”. The world is a dangerous place; ignoring the facts makes it even more so.
- Big Pharma has to give up the “vaccine secrecy” and the financial protection of the indemnification laws.
- The “Medical Establishment” (i.e., doctors, hospitals, their lawyers) have to worry less about “their image” and more about effective solutions.
- “We, The Sheeple” need to get with the program. Don’t get your medical diagnosis from “Doctor Google” or the latest “celebrity” with a miracle cure. Do be an informed active participant in your own medical care. (It enrages me when I go to medical appointment and the staff is surprised when I know and have documented everything I take and why as well as all my own medical records. At the very least, people can put the prescription bottles in a zip lock and bring it with them.)
Seem simple enough to me.
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