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So. California Candida Auris Nursing Home Outbreak

So. California Candida Auris Nursing Home Outbreak

Just two months ago we published an urgent nursing home alert for folks in New York City. Several nursing homes saw rapidly spreading outbreaks of Candida Auris, a deadly fungus infection linked to many deaths. Fifty percent of the patients who become infected are dead within 90 days. [To learn more about more about this new nursing home threat, visit our post, Nursing Homes and Candida Auris.]

That post was written on September 19th. Less than 3 weeks later an outbreak occurred in several Southern California / Orange County nursing homes. An infectious diseases publication written on October 5th said a single outbreak in a Southern California healthcare facility resulted in 180 patients in 9 different facilities being found with the disease.

Dr. Ellora Karmarkar, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Officer from the California Health and Human Services Agency, says lapses in infection control practices likely fueled the spread of Candida Auris to three long-term acute care hospitals and six skilled nursing facilities with ventilator units. Because patients are often transferred between facilities, a resident at a nursing home may spread the disease to a hospital where another patient catches the disease and brings it a different nursing home. 181 patients have been affected as of October 3rd with 36 reported deaths.

Through genome DNA sequencing, researches believe that the infection is all of the same strain meaning a single point of origin. Unfortunately, California hasn't released the names of the facilities. We only know all or most were in Orange County. [Mahany Law has served the state's Healthcare Associated Infections Program coordinator with a California Public Records Law demand for the list of facilities.]

Candida Auris is mostly a threat to those with compromised immune systems. It is particularly deadly for nursing home residents who are on a ventilator. Even those using a CPAP machine have a heightened risk. If the infection gets into the lungs it often results in death.

Proper sanitation is usually all that is necessary to stop this deadly killer. Yet investigators found that in five of the nine California facilities with Candida Auris outbreaks, had hand hygiene adherence of below 50%! At two of the facilities, less than 60% of high-touch surfaces that were tested were clean. Three facilities had limited access to alcohol-based hand rubs.

Dr. Karmarkar says, "This investigation suggests that high-risk facilities for C. auris — specifically, long-term acute care hospitals and ventilator-equipped skilled nursing facilities — should consider enhanced surveillance for C. auris to enable early identification and implementation of control measures.” We agree. Simply having alcohol hand sanitizers and insuring that staff wash their hands between patients can literally mean the difference between life and death.

In our New York investigation, we found that the nursing homes with outbreaks frequently had staffing issues. When an aide must run from room to room, sometimes they become rushed and fail to wash their hands. We are investigating one case where a staff member picked up a breathing mask that had fallen from a patient and landed on the floor. The staff member failed to wash her hands or the mask. She simply picked it up off the floor and placed on the patient's face. That patient is now dying from Candida Auris.

Can I Sue a California Nursing Home for Candida Auris?

The answer is yes. Although the standard of care owed to nursing home residents and the law varies state to state, in California the standards are quite high. State licensed nursing homes owe each resident the best possible care. Specifically, they are required to help each resident attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well–being.1 Unless it is medically unavoidable, nursing homes must ensure that a resident’s condition does not decline. 42 CFR §483.25. Because C. Auris infections are avoidable, there is no reason for a resident to become infected. 

One of California's requirements is sufficient staff to meet every resident's needs at all times. California Health & Safety Code §1599.1(a). There are no exceptions for nights, weekends or holidays.

There is also a requirement to have a proper infection control program that prevents infections such as Candida Auris from spreading. Title 22 CCR §72321–72323. Those requirements include 100% adherence to hand washing between patients and keeping surfaces clean.

Simply because the law requires proper staffing and infection control doesn't mean nursing homes follow the rules. California's investigation proves that point.

We have found that poor salaries and training also contributes to the problem.

Candida Auris infections if left untreated or undetected can race through a nursing home. Even minor infections can be life threatening in elderly individuals. That’s because the elderly often have a compromised immune system.

No one goes to a nursing home expecting to get sepsis or c. auris. Unfortunately, because of poor staffing and hygiene, such serious infections are too common.

When a California skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation hospital fails to maintain clean and sanitary conditions, it breaches its duty to care to patients. When that happens and when the patient develops sepsis or Candida Auris , the patient or patient's family may be entitled to monetary compensation. Damages include medical expenses, pain and suffering, future care expenses and diminished life expectancy.

It's Too Late, My Family Member Has Candida Auris, Now What?

Our network of experienced nursing home neglect attorneys understands the special needs of elderly and disabled clients. We know how to aggressively prosecute infection claims against nursing homes.

Unlike some personal injury lawyers that like to quickly settle (“quantity over quality”), our lawyers are all handpicked for their skill, experience, and willingness to take cases to trial. We have the financial depth to hire the right expert witnesses when the wrongdoers deny responsibility or refuse to settle on favorable terms.

Whether in California or anywhere in the United States, if you or a loved one has contracted candida auris or another super bug in a nursing home and believe it is because of poor care or inadequate staffing, let us know. We will personally handle your case from start to finish or connect you with one of our experienced hand-picked partners. Our consultations are always free, confidential and without obligation. Contact us by email [hidden email], by phone 833.201.1555 or contact us online.

There are specific time limits in every state about bringing claims. In California, personal injury suits generally must be brought within 2 years. There may be shorter time periods for medical malpractice. Wait too long and you may lose your right to bring a claim.

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