The US is flooding the US. The Next Health Problem: Mold

There is a long history of natural disasters making people sick. Reports from Valley fever cases after the Northridge earthquake in California in 1994 dumped the dirt containing Coccidia bacteria into the air, in aspergillus infections caused by victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami craving water full of bacteria, of people infected and killed by fungi carried in the remains from Joplin, Missouri, tornado, in 2011 also.

But it is difficult to know if an infection or reaction is related to mold, because the damage caused by disasters puts victims on multiple components. “After flood events or storms, a lot happens: Not only do you deal with a house full of mold, but you tear that house apart, so there’s drywall and dust and plaster and all those something you’re ‘likely to grasp,’ ”said Tom Chiller, a physician and chief of the mycotic disease branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s hard to mock the impact of mold.”

Researchers thus face a dilemma: Their clinical instincts tell them that people are at risk, but they have a lack of data to prove it. People with compromised immunity are often at risk for mold and fungal infections; their diminished protections allow them to absorb the fungal spores we all breathe in every day, leaving them easily accessible to organisms such as aspergillus and violent that mutant weed Candida auris. The CDC estimates that more than 75,000 people are hospitalized each year for troublesome fungal infections, and cost the health care system about $ 4.5 billion a year.

Particularly at risk are transplant patients who have received organ donors or are undergoing leukemia treatment, and are taking medications that suppress the immune system to maintain their recovery. Those people, the researchers said, should not be anywhere near a mold house, especially working to repair one, and should stay away from flood waters. But in a survey of the 103 patients immunosuppressed by the CDC and several Houston hospitals after Hurricane Harvey, half of them admitted they came back to clean their flooded homes, and only two-fifths said that they were wearing a protective respirator.

The CDC has partnered with some of the hospitals on a more complex post -Harvey project, which has yet to be published, reviewing medical records from a year before and after the storm to get if people suppressed resistance has developed storm -related invasive fungal infections. . There is no clear signal from the data, said Mitsuru Toda, an epidemiologist in the agency’s mycotic disease branch: “Overall, we saw an increase after Hurricane Harvey in the number of people with invasive mold infections. , but some hospitals have a decrease, some hospitals have an increase, and the number is small. ”

What complicates the finding, he added, is that some mold and fungal infections have sufficient incubation periods that symptoms may not have shown up in the last year of the storm. In addition, Toda said, some doctors in Houston told the agency that they first put their most patient suppressed resistance to antifungal drugs – which protects patients, but is confusing any calculation of the effect of storm to their health.

Ostrosky-Zeichner is one of the clinics. “In theory, we should be able to find a lot of mold infections after major floods and storms, but we haven’t seen that until now,” he said.

Researchers are also concerned about an even larger proportion of the population, estimated to be up to 40 percent, who are susceptible to allergies and may react to mold and fungal growths in their homes-as well. about the rest of the population, who may develop new allergies after exposure. “For most people, the health impact we often see is breathing,” says Felicia Rabito, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “A severe reaction can be like a breathing problem; a less severe reaction can be symptoms other than an allergy. If you have asthma, though, and mold is the cause, you can trigger an asthma attack, which is a severe reaction. ”

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