When a major infection outbreak occurs at a hospital, it is the responsibility of the environmental services team to take extra precautions when cleaning. Medical cleaning experts know how to disinfect surfaces and kill pretty much anything with the proper EPA-approved disinfectants. But as we are seeing with the current Candida Auris outbreak, routine cleaning might not be enough when it comes to resistant strains.

C. Auris is a drug-resistant superbug that preys on people with weakened immune systems. The New York Times reports that the fungus has “hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa,” all within the span of five years. The fungus just recently made its debut in the United States at hospitals in New York, New Jersey and Illinois. One case at the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital was so invasive that the hospital required special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added C. Auris to a list of germs that have been identified as “urgent threats.” As you can imagine this is causing major concern for hospitals worldwide. If there is anything that we can learn from this outbreak, it is that medical cleaning is important and needs to be done with care.

The need to hire cleaning professionals has never been more clear. Your hospital’s cleaning and disinfecting should be ran by people who know what products and methods are most effective in these situations. No one is safe from a major outbreak. Cleaning your facility regularly and having measures in place in case of emergency is critical.

The superbug is reported to survive on high-contact surfaces (tabletops, bedside tables, mattresses, etc.) for weeks. Routine daily and terminal cleaning and disinfecting of patients rooms and areas where they receive care is required. Quaternary ammonium compounds commonly used for disinfection may not be effective at killing C. Auris. The CDC recommends using (EPA)-registered hospital-grade disinfectants known to be effective against Clostridium difficile spores. Always follow manufacturer directions for use. Pay extra attention to contact time. Leaving the product on the surface for the correct amount of time is the only way to ensure the surface is properly disinfected.

The CDC has outlined how hospitals should handle cases of C. Auris:

  • Placing the patient with C. auris in a single-patient room and using Standard and Contact Precautions.
  • Emphasizing adherence to hand hygiene.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting patient care environment and reusable equipment (daily and terminal cleaning) with recommended products.
  • Inter-facility communication about patient’s C. auris status at transfer to another healthcare facility.
  • Screening contacts of newly identified case patients to identify C. auris colonization.
  • Conduct surveillance for new cases to detect ongoing transmission.

You may be wondering why this is the first time you are hearing of C. Auris. Despite reporting outbreaks, hospitals have been reluctant to issue public announcements for fear of alarming current and prospect patients. The lack of urgency and transparency around resistant infections has caused a “hushed panic” for a solution. It is important to keep a level head and stay informed. If you are a hospital, it may be time to review and make required changes to your facility’s procedures for emergency outbreaks. In addition, meet with your EVS director to ensure procedures are consistent throughout your facility.