Most Americans unaware of major fungal diseases, survey finds
Nearly 70% of adults in the United States have never heard of six major fungal diseases, according to results from a first-of-its-kind survey published in MMWR.
“Public awareness of fungal diseases is low, a concerning finding because these diseases are associated with substantial illness, death and economic cost, although their true burden remains largely unquantified,” Kaitlin Benedict, MPH, and colleagues from the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases wrote.
“Primary prevention of fungal diseases can be challenging, particularly for those acquired via inhalation from the natural environment,” they wrote. “Therefore, awareness is critical to help prevent severe disease, because early diagnosis and treatment can prevent incorrect treatment and improve outcomes.”
Benedict and colleagues reviewed answers from Porter Novelli’s Fall 2019 ConsumerStyles survey, a nationally representative online survey of 3,624 adults, to determine respondents’ awareness of six invasive fungal diseases: aspergillosis, Candida infection or candidiasis, coccidioidomycosis, Cryptococcus, blastomycosis and histoplasmosis.
General awareness varied by disease. The lowest level of patient recognition was for blastomycosis (4.1%), and the highest was for candidiasis (24.6%). More than two-thirds (68.9%) of the participants were not familiar with any of the infections included. Higher education status, increased number of prescription medications and female sex were associated with awareness.
According to the researchers, the study’s major limitations were its reliance on self-reported data, lack of information about health literacy, limited explanation of awareness of fungal diseases and a lack of information about risk factors like immunosuppression, environmental exposures and occupation. They said rectifying these limitations could “help public health and health care professionals develop targeted prevention messages to groups at high risk.”
“These results are the first estimates of nationwide public awareness of fungal diseases and serve as a baseline for future studies to assess knowledge gaps,” the authors wrote. “Continued educational efforts to improve awareness are needed.”