Mark your calendars, this year’s Fungal Disease Awareness Week runs from September 23rd to September 27th. Since 2017, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set aside a few days each year to raise awareness about fungal infections. Their main goal is to inform healthcare workers and patients about just how dangerous fungus-related illnesses can be, and that proper and prompt treatment are absolutely critical for a patient’s well-being.
One prominent slogan for Fungal Disease Awareness Week (FDAW) is “Think Fungus.” Now, considering that most of us would rather not think about fungus in our day-to-day lives, that motto may seem a little unappealing. But the message is actually quite important: fungal infections are misdiagnosed as other illnesses at an alarming rate, mainly because their symptoms can often mimic those of other health problems. In fact, three kinds of fungal diseases that the CDC is spotlighting this year are Valley Fever, Histoplasmosis, and blastomycosis—and one thing that they all have in common is that they’re frequently mistaken for the flu or pneumonia. When the CDC says to “think fungus,” they are encouraging people to consider the possibility of a fungal infection when normal antibiotics (or antivirals) do not seem to be relieving a sick person’s issues. In doing so, they hope to promote faster, more accurate, and more efficient diagnoses and treatments for those suffering with fungal infections.
At Realtime Laboratories, we’re all about living lives free of harmful molds, which is why we are so passionate about bringing awareness to FDAW. Read on to learn more information about what you can do to take a stand against fungus-related illnesses.
For Healthcare Providers
Doctors and medical professionals are on the “front line” in the war against fungal infections, which is why it’s important for them to be armed with knowledge and ready to fight. Here are some tips for those of you working in the healthcare field:
» Talk to your patients about mycotoxins. Many people aren’t even aware of the threat of mycotoxins (that is, the toxic substances produced by certain kinds of molds and fungi). While they may have heard of toenail fungus and yeast infections, they don’t realize that the exposure to toxic mold and mycotoxins can be seriously debilitating—or that some fungal infections can actually be deadly if they go undiagnosed. It falls on doctors and other caregivers, then, to pass along this life-saving information. Explain the dangers of mold exposure to your patients, and always be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of a fungal infection.
» Take Advantage of the latest technology. In recent years, a toxic yeast known as Candida auris has become a major concern to those specializing in mold-related illnesses, primarily because (1) it is resistant to most standard antifungal drugs, (2) it is difficult to detect using traditional laboratory equipment, and (3) it has a tendency to attack people with compromised immune systems. Quick detection is key for surviving a C. auris infection. Fortunately, RealTime Laboratories has a cutting-edge solution for this problem: the MycoDART-PCR™ Test. This test can identify various Candida infections (including C. auris) in patient genetic samples (i.e. whole blood, plasma, bronchial alveolar lavages, tissue samples, culture swabs) within a few short hours—much faster than traditional blood cultures. Thus, the MycoDART-PCR™ can be an invaluable tool in providing your patients with proper treatment for their illness.
» Report fungal disease outbreaks to the CDC. The Centers for Disease Control defines an outbreak as “when two or more people get sick from contact with the same source, sometimes at the same time and place.” In other words, one person contracting Valley Fever is probably not an outbreak, but three residents in the same nursing home all becoming sick with C. auris definitely is! The CDC has tools, resources, and procedures for containing and stopping outbreaks, so don’t hesitate to consult with them if multiple people fall ill at once. More information can be found on the organization’s website.
For Everyone Else
Of course, not all of us are doctors, healthcare workers, or even mycologists. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t pitch in during this year’s FDAW. Here are some ideas that folks from all walks of life can put into practice:
» Wash your hands. Cleaning your hands frequently and correctly with soap and water or hand sanitizer is probably the easiest, most simple way that people can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases—including fungal infections. Think about it: many of us touch our eyes, mouths, and noses with our fingers frequently without even noticing that we’re doing it, and these particular parts are often used by illness-causing microbes as “doorways” into our bodies. You don’t need to scrub your hands 20 times a day, but simply taking a few minutes to wash up after coming inside from the outdoors, after using the restroom, before eating, and any time that your hands feel “grimy” can make a world of difference. It’s especially important to clean up before you visit a sick friend at their house or step foot inside a hospital, doctor’s office, or nursing home. Fungal diseases are especially dangerous to the elderly, infirm, and immunocompromised, so make sure that you’re not inadvertently bringing trouble with you to these places.
» Watch out for environmental mold. Most adults know better than to eat food that’s covered in green fuzz or smells unusually earthy. But how many of us live with wall-to-wall carpeting in our bathrooms, don’t regularly clean our window-mounted air conditioning units, or dismiss water-damaged ceilings, floors, and personal items as “no big deal”? All of these scenarios can contribute to mold in your environment, and that can lead to you (and your loved ones) inhaling dangerous spores as you go about your daily life. Read up on possible causes of environmental mold, and make adjustments to your home accordingly.
» Voice mycotoxin-related concerns to your doctor. Unfortunately, not all doctors take fungal infections as seriously as they really should. However, if you have reason to believe that you may be suffering from the effects of toxic mold exposure, don’t be afraid to speak to your healthcare provider about it—and don’t let them dismiss your concerns outright. It may also be helpful to consult with a firm or practitioner that actually specializes in mold and mycotoxin treatment, too.
Again: we understand that not many people want to dwell on the idea of fungal infections. But misdiagnosis of these kinds of diseases is a real problem. Fortunately, it’s one that can be combated with knowledge and awareness from a medical professional, and the usage of proper test kits and tools, such as the RealTime EMMA or Mycotoxin Test. For more information about Fungal Disease Awareness Week, please visit the website for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for more information about how RealTime Laboratories can help you have peace of mind and live a life free from toxic molds and mycotoxins, please contact us.