How The Elderly At Nursing Homes Are Exposed To Deadly Fungus and Other Fatal Infections

elder woman laying on the bed suffering from an illness

Nursing homes are a primary source of a deadly drug-resistant fungal infection that is spreading in hospitals across the country, according to a recent report. Seriously ill nursing home patients with the fungus tend to take multiple antibiotics, which increases the infection’s drug resistance. It can easily spread from resident to resident and to others outside the nursing home.

“(P)ublic health experts say that nursing facilities and long-term hospitals are a dangerously weak link in the health care system, often understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce rigorous infection control, yet continuously cycling infected patients, or those who carry the germ, into hospitals and back again,” the New York Times report says.

The Times report centers on Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago, with half of patients dying within 90 days. 

In New York, 396 people are known to be infected and another 496 are carrying the germ without showing symptoms, according to public health officials. The Times cites a Brooklyn skilled nursing facility where 38 cases of C. auris have been diagnosed. In Chicago, half of patients living on dedicated ventilator floors in the city’s skilled nursing homes are infected with or harboring C. auris on their bodies, the Times says.

Nursing homes are caldrons that are constantly reseeding hospitals with increasingly dangerous bacteria, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York who leads the nonprofit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, told the newspaper. 

  1. auris preys on people with weakened immune systems and is impervious to major antifungal medications, the Times said in April. It is particularly found in patients on ventilators, which are difficult to adequately clean. After a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York died from C. auris, tests showed it everywhere in his room. It was so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to remove some of the ceiling tiles and floor tiles to eradicate it.

As of July 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed 769 cases of C. auris in 13 states, 30 “probable” cases in those states and “an additional 1,540 patients … found to be colonized with C. auris by targeted screening in 12 states with clinical cases.”

There were no cases in South Carolina, but one case in neighboring Georgia.

How Do Infections Occur And Spread In Nursing Homes?

Bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites can cause infection or infectious diseases. Some infectious diseases can be passed from person to person through direct contact or airborne contact through coughing or sneezing. Some infectious disease organisms can live outside of animal bodies for lengthy periods and be picked up from contact with them on hard surfaces, bedding, clothing, eating utensils, discarded medical tools or bandages.

If a nursing home or other medical facility is not properly cleaned or used instruments and materials are not disposed of or confined until they can be cleaned, infectious diseases will spread.

A 2017 study published by Nursing Times says, “Care home residents share air, space, food and equipment, so they also share organisms that can easily cause infection outbreaks, such as viruses and bacteria. They are also more prone and vulnerable to infections, which can lead to death.”

Common Infections Found in Nursing Homes

The Nursing Times report says the most common types of disease outbreaks in nursing homes are outbreaks of respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections. 

A study of common infections in nursing homes published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says gastroenteritis, influenza and skin infections are the most common epidemic (widespread) infections.

The NIH study found that infections were 93.5% more likely among nursing home residents on ventilators, feeding tubes, or urinary catheters than residents who did not require those devices. 

Infections contracted while under medical care are known as healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs. In nursing homes and long-term care facilities (LTCFs), 1 to 3 million serious infections occur every year and as many as 380,000 people die from infections every year, according to the CDC.

Common infections and bacteria found in LTCFs, include:

  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), e.g., Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Clostridioides difficile (C. diff)
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Influenza
  • Norovirus
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI)
  • Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)
  • Surgical site infection (SSI)
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).

Each of these may be fatal. They are particularly deadly among individuals who are elderly and/or otherwise ill and infirm.

Can Nursing Homes Be Held Liable For Injury or Death From Infection?

Nursing homes have a legal duty to ensure the safety of residents under their care. This includes an obligation to ensure that sanitation protocols exist and are followed to guard against the development and spread of infections. When a nursing home neglects its obligations for residents’ health and safety and someone is injured or become seriously ill because of that neglect, the nursing home may be held liable through a lawsuit.

If a nursing home resident has contracted an infection due to neglect by the nursing home staff and dies or is significantly injured, the family of the patient may seek compensation for medical and/or funeral and burial expenses, their unnecessary pain and suffering, and other losses.

Our nursing home neglect lawyers at Joye Law Firm have the knowledge and experience to stand up for residents and the families of those who have been harmed by nursing home neglect. We can investigate the situation, review your loved one’s medical records and pursue a claim for compensation, if appropriate.

Contact Our SC Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

If a family member of yours has contracted a healthcare-associated infection as a result of negligent care by a nursing home or similar long-term care facility in South Carolina, Joye Law Firm is ready to help. You or your loved one may be entitled to seek money to assist with proper medical care, for pain and suffering and for other losses.

Call Joye Law. We have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton and Columbia, SC. Our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys handle cases anywhere in South Carolina. Phone 888-918-4959 or fill out our contact form for a free and confidential discussion of your legal options and how we can help you.