Editorial: Comments on CDC’s Fungal Awareness Week

The Centers for Disease Control  (CDC) has declared August 14-18 as the first Fungal Disease Awareness Week.

Their stated purpose is so that they and their partners can “highlight the importance of recognizing serious fungal diseases early enough in the course of a patient’s illness to provide life-saving treatment.” Another CDC page highlights exactly this cause for concern and includes why fungal disease is increasing in the US and globally.

We at Hayward Score applaud this action by the CDC, because disease from fungi is too often overlooked. For example, as long ago as 1999 the Mayo Clinic published a study showing that the majority of chronic sinusitis was fungal, not bacterial. Therefore, physicians should be prescribing an antimycotic, not an antibiotic.

The misapplication of antibiotics for fungal sinusitis is even more serious today with the overwhelming evidence that over-prescription of antibiotics is one of the leading causes of life-threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is shouted very loudly on the CDCs website.

The CDC announcement also provides an important, general clue for both the public and the treating medical community: “A key clue to when a sick person may have a fungal infection is that he or she is being treated with medications for other types of infection but does not get better.”

This is important, and so far, so good. But not nearly good enough.

Fungi, more commonly referred to both generally and (too often) professionally simply as “mold,” has many more effects on the human body than “infection.” A fungal infection is when an organism of mold is actually on the skin or inside the body, and is actively growing and reproducing. That is what an infection is. The CDC Fungal Awareness Week has narrowed our awareness specifically to “infection.”

Fungal exposure can also cause asthma attacks that sometimes result in death (3,651 in 2015) and can cause allergic reactions with the very real risk of anaphylactic shock – which can also kill. Both asthma and anaphylaxis require immediate action, not a treatment plan that allows time for a drug to fail so another can be used instead. Both asthma and anaphylaxis are capable of death within minutes – not the days or months needed for most fungal infections.

While we at Hayward Score applaud the CDC for this important notice, we also sincerely wish that the CDC had not done so in a way that implicitly creates the impression that other fungal illnesses are so unimportant that they were not worth mentioning.

 

 

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