Health experts concerned about increasingly drug-resistant germs amid pandemic

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Health experts are warning that precautionary measures taken to protect people against COVID-19 could be inadvertently furthering the spread of harmful, drug-resistant bacteria and fungi. 

According to an analysis published Wednesday by The New York Times, nursing homes and hospitals have not tracked these germs as closely due to diverted attention to the pandemic, and there have been isolated outbreaks of various drug-resistant infections in Florida, New Jersey and California, as well as globally in India, Italy, Peru and France.

The Times pointed out that while nursing homes and hospitals early on in the pandemic were consistent with cleaning rooms, changing gowns and other measures to prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, an increased focus on COVID-19, which has infected more than 25.5 million and killed nearly 427,000 nationally, has allowed the germs to spread more so than before. 

“Seeing the world as a one-pathogen world is really problematic,” Susan Huang, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California-Irvine Medical School, told the Times. 

“We have every reason to believe the problem has gotten worse,” Huang said. 

Experts say that one particular fungus, Candida auris, or C. auris, has been particularly troublesome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already announced a plan to fight the fungus before COVID-19 hit the country. 

The Times reported that these previous efforts by health authorities helped limit the spread of C. auris to just a handful of cases in Los Angeles County. Now, the county has around 250 cases. 

Zachary Rubin, who leads the county’s infection control efforts at health care facilities, told the Times that the “blooming in Candida auris,” could be attributed to a handful of factors, most notably limited testing for the fungus as attention has moved more toward COVID-19 testing. 

Earlier this month, data compiled by The Washington Post revealed that while COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, social distancing and other preventative measures have led other viruses, including influenza A, influenza B, parainfluenza, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus, to be detected at or near levels lower than previously measured. 

Experts warned at the time that the lowered exposure and immunity people have to these other viruses could lead to a sharp rebound of cases in the coming year as more people receive COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions on public activities start to relax.

Tags Bacteria California Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC coronavirus cases coronavirus covid-19 coronavirus infections drug-resistant Fungus Los Angeles The New York Times The Washington Post
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