State Health Commissioner Issues Health Advisory to Strengthen Readiness for Candida Auris Fungus in Hospitals and Nursing Homes

State Reinforces Enhanced Surveillance for Reporting Candida auris Cases and Effective Infection Control Practices

State Initiates Review of Infection Control Compliance at all Hospitals and Nursing Homes in Brooklyn and Queens

Roundtable Discussion to Focus on Implementation of Health Advisory Directives

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 5, 2017) New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker today issued a statewide health advisory to all hospitals and nursing homes in New York City to be on high alert of readiness for Candida auris, or C. auris, a fungal infection that has become increasingly resistant to treatments and can cause severe illness in patients with serious underlying medical conditions.

"It is important for New Yorkers to understand C. auris poses no risk to the general public," said Dr. Howard Zucker. "C. auris is an opportunistic infection which primarily impacts patients who are already ill for other reasons. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership we're taking aggressive actions to contain its spread in hospitals and nursing homes."

First identified in Japan in 2009, C. auris has now been identified as the cause of reported infections in more than a dozen countries, and six states, including New York. Cases in New York are primarily concentrated among hospital patients and nursing home residents in New York City.

C. auris can be spread in healthcare settings through contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment, or from physical contact with a person who is infected or colonized. Most C. aurisinfections are treatable with a class of antifungal drugs such as echinocandins. Infection control, including good hand washing and hygiene, and personal protective equipment is key to prevention.

Today's health advisory reinforces guidance issued by the Department of Health on August 17, 2016 and November 3, 2016 encouraging enhanced surveillance for the identification and reporting of C. auris cases, and stressing the importance of proper infection control practices. When C. auris is identified or suspected, the Department requires that the patients be isolated or cohorted in single rooms. It also requires facilities to maintain adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and EPA-registered surface disinfectant to apply with DOH and CDC approved cleaning and disinfecting techniques.

Additionally the Department is taking the following actions:

  • Requiring clinical staff in all New York City hospitals and nursing homes to participate in a webinar to review infection control and environmental cleaning requirements.
  • Conducting on-site audits of all hospitals and nursing homes in Brooklyn and Queens to assess compliance with infection control requirements.
  • Testing clinical and environmental samples for C. auris at the State's Wadsworth Laboratory.
  • Convening a roundtable with healthcare leadership to discuss advisory guidelines, infection control and C. auris response.

As of May 5, 2017, there have been 53 clinical cases in New York State, with an additional 18 screening cases. Screening cases indicate a patient who has been found to be colonized with the infection, but not showing clinical symptoms. There have been 20 deaths among cases, but all patients had serious underlying medical conditions and it is difficult to attribute any deaths specifically to C. auris. Cases have been concentrated among hospital patients and nursing home residents in the New York City area, with one patient in Rochester who had previously been treated in a New York City facility.