Twice in 2019 the United States faced deadly outbreaks of Candida Auris, one in New York and one in Southern California. Candida Auris is a difficult to treat fungus that kills as many as 50% of the people it infects. Like coronavirus, it is particularly deadly when the outbreak occurs in a nursing home.
Centered mostly in Orange County last summer, it took a Freedom of Information Act request to get the California Health and Human Services Agency to provide the list of nursing homes affected. From information obtained last fall, the nursing homes with Candida Auris infections included:
- Kindred Hospital -Westminster
- Kindred Hospital – Santa Ana
- Kindred Hospital - Brea
- French Park Care Center – Santa Ana
- Garden Park Care Center - Santa Ana
- Pacific Haven Subacute and Healthcare Center – Garden Grove
- Kindred Hospital Brea Subacute Unit
- New Orange Hills
- Regency Oaks Post Acute Care Center – Long Beach
The L.A. Times reported on July 20th warned of “multiple reports of the fungus” in Los Angeles County healthcare facilities as well as a resurgence in Orange County. As usual, the State of California isn’t releasing the names of the affected facilities.
Los Angeles County officials are blaming a lack of personal protective equipment caused by the coronavirus pandemic but we don’t by that argument.
Unlike COVID-19 which is primarily transmitted by droplets, Candida Auris appears to be transmitted by contact. Gowns and masks may be in short supply but they aren’t the most effective way of stopping the transmission of the fungus. Good hygiene and sanitation practices (cleanliness) are the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the infection.
In the cases we have seen and investigated, it appears that the infection spread when nursing home staff went from patient to patient without changing gloves (physical contact). We are also aware of one case where a patient’s breathing mask fell on the floor. Rather than replace it, an aide simply picked it up off the dirty floor and put it back on the patient’s face.
CDC Says Candida Auris is Deadly
While the public remains concerned about coronavirus (and rightly so), the real killer is an outbreak of Candida Auris.
Currently healthcare experts are divided on just how dangerous COVID-19 really is. The death toll is probably around 2% with some saying its much lower. The CDC says that a Candida Auris infection once inside the body has a death rate around 1 in 3! That is 33%. And it is especially deadly for those with compromised immune systems meaning those that reside in nursing homes.
The fungus is certainly a threat for hospitals but data in the U.S. shows that outbreaks in hospitals are rare. That is because unlike nursing homes, hospitals are better staffed, have better sanitation protocols and typically diagnose an outbreak much faster.
According to the CDC, Candida Auris:
- It is often multidrug-resistant, meaning that it is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs commonly used to treat Candida infections.
- It is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods, and it can be misidentified in labs without specific technology. Misidentification may lead to inappropriate management.
- It has caused outbreaks in healthcare settings. For this reason, it is important to quickly identify C. auris in a hospitalized patient so that healthcare facilities can take special precautions to stop its spread.
When we first wrote about Candida Auris in September of last year, 800 people had been infected within the United States, almost all of those in New York or California nursing homes. As of May 2020, the most recent statistics available, 1122 people in the U.S. have been infected.
Are Nursing Homes Liable if a Loved One Contracts Candida Auris
The short answer is yes. Suing has become much more difficult, however. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some short-sighted states have passed immunity legislation that give substandard nursing homes a pass on most lawsuits. Typically these immunity laws were retroactive until March of 2020 and are scheduled to last until the state of emergency is over. When that happens is anyone’s guess.
As of this writing, the duty of care owed to nursing home residents and the ability to sue nursing homes for their negligence varies widely from state to state. Places like New York, a previous Candida Auris hotspot, have become extremely difficult to hold nursing homes responsible.
We are unabashed in our dislike as to how New York handled the coronavirus outbreak. First the state ordered ill-equipped nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients and then after hundreds of nursing home residents tragically died, they gave nursing homes immunity from lawsuit. Caught in the middle were the patients who had no say in what was happening.
Thankfully, California’s governor and legislature have so far resisted the pressure from lobbyists to give blanket immunity to nursing homes in the Golden State.
If a loved one died because of Candida Auris in a nursing home prior to March 2020, you probably have a case. If the death happened after that date it becomes heavily dependent on where your loved one was residing. So far, California remains a state in which nursing home neglect cases can be freely brought.
Nursing Homes Most At Risk of C. Auris Outbreaks
We can’t change the laws in those states where nursing homes have been granted immunity from civil suits. We can share with you, however, the risk factors that make some nursing home residents more vulnerable than others.
The nursing homes most at risk for an outbreak are those that fail to meet minimum staffing guidelines, especially on weekends and holidays. One overworked CNA who has too many patients on a Saturday night can quickly spread the infection. It takes time to properly sanitize and re-glove when seeing each patient.Also a problem are nursing homes with poor training and poor sanitation practices.
If infections are left untreated in a nursing home, they can quickly lead to death. Even minor infections can be life threatening in elderly individuals. That’s because the elderly often have compromised immune systems.
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.
If we are able to bring a case, the patient or her family may be entitled to monetary compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, future care expenses and diminished life expectancy.
I Have 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.
A Candida Auris case is not a typical nursing home case like a bedsore or fall. These cases require medical experts and experts in infection control practices. 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.
If you or a loved one has contracted candida auris in a nursing home and believe it is because of poor care or inadequate staffing, let us know. Visit our Candida Auris Nursing Home information page for more information. If you are ready to proceed, contact us and we will connect you with an experienced lawyer. If we cannot assist you, someone in our network can. Our consultations are always free, confidential and without obligation. Contact us by email [hidden email], by phone 833.201.1555 or contact us online.