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The 15 Most Stressful Sentences in That Big Drug-Resistant Fungus Story

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I came across the New York Times’ front-page story about a deadly, drug-resistant fungus three times before steeling myself to actually read it (what about you?), and it was just as skin-crawling as I had anticipated. More so, actually. (The story was so scary that writers Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs could make it into its own Netflix special? An HBO series? Some humorous silver-lining deflection of fear??)

It’s about the “quiet” but lethal spread of the mysterious fungus Candida auris, which has been infecting people around the world, in particular those with vulnerable immune systems, such as newborns and the elderly. According to the CDC, “90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 percent are resistant to two or more drugs.”

In case you haven’t read it, or in case you have and want to reimmerse yourself in its frightening poetry, here are some distressing “highlights.”

“Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.”

“Simply put, fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defenses to survive modern medicines.”

“Scientists say that unless more effective new medicines are developed and unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs is sharply curbed, risk will spread to healthier populations.”

“Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks.”

“All the while, the germs are easily spread — carried on hands and equipment inside hospitals; ferried on meat and manure-fertilized vegetables from farms; transported across borders by travelers and on exports and imports; and transferred by patients from nursing home to hospital and back.”

“‘It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify,’ she said.”

“Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the C.D.C.”

“‘It is a creature from the black lagoon,’ said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal branch at the C.D.C.”

“‘It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.’”

“‘We have no idea where it’s coming from.’”

“This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world.”

“The secrecy infuriates patient advocates, who say people have a right to know if there is an outbreak so they can decide whether to go to a hospital, particularly when dealing with a nonurgent matter, like elective surgery.”

“‘You wouldn’t tolerate this at a restaurant with a food poisoning outbreak.’”

“Health officials say that disclosing outbreaks frightens patients about a situation they can do nothing about, particularly when the risks are unclear.”

“He did his job and thoroughly examined the patient, but said, ‘There was an overwhelming feeling of being terrified of accidentally picking it up on a sock or tie or gown.’”

My personal takeaways are to regret all those antibiotics I took for acne, to say to myself, “I’ll never eat cheap meat again,” to ponder the potential health benefits of buying exclusively organic produce (what crops don’t use azole pesticides? Or do we just surrender??), to forswear hand sanitizer (okay, to continue forswearing hand sanitizer), to never get sick, and to never get old. And to potentially spend all my time worrying about this.

The 15 Most Stressful Sentences From That Big Fungus Story