Health officials in the United States are closely monitoring an emerging fungus called Candida auris (or C. auris) that is causing concern because some of the infections are resistant to drugs. This fungus can lead to severe, even deadly, infections, and is mostly affecting people in hospitals and nursing homes.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the public about a handful of C. auris cases. But that number swelled to 112 cases as of Aug. 21, the last time the CDC published a C. auris update.
The majority of the Candida auris cases (77) are in New York, and an additional 23 cases are in New Jersey. The fungal infection has also been reported in lower incidence rates in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your loved ones safe from this fungus.
The CDC says Candida auris is mostly affecting patients who already have “many medical problems,” particularly those who have had frequent hospital stays or live in nursing homes.
The fungus is more likely to affect patients with weakened immune systems from conditions such as blood cancers or diabetes, or who have breathing tubes, feeding tubes or catheters.
“It seems to affect the sickest of the sick patients, particularly those in hospitals and nursing homes with other medical problems,” Sharon Tsay, lead author and an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer at the CDC, told CNN.
Symptoms of Candida auris may not be noticeable
A patient may not recognize Candida auris symptoms because they are often already sick and battling another serious illness, the CDC warns. However, it manifests itself with different types of symptoms depending on the part of the body it’s infecting.
These infections could include a bloodstream infection, wound infection or ear infection. Since these symptoms are so wide-ranging, the CDC recommends a lab test to determine whether a patient has a C. auris infection.
The fungal infection is treatable
Most Candida auris infections are treatable with antifungal medications known as echinocandins. However, some C. auris infections are resistant to all three main classes of antifungal medications, making them difficult to treat.
The CDC notes that this has never been seen in other candida infections. If this multi-drug resistance occurs, multiple anti-fungal medications at high doses may be needed to treat the infection.
Unlike most other fungal infections, Candida auris can spread
It’s not typical for fungal infections to be spread from person to person. But what concerns health care officials is that Candida auris can last on the skin and on surfaces, like bedrails and chairs, for a long time.
This allows it to spread from person to person in health care settings, the CDC warns. However, health officials say the fungal infection won’t likely spread to a healthy person outside of this environment.
To prevent the spread of Candida auris, handwashing is important.
Additionally, patients with Candida auris who live in nursing homes or are staying in hospitals should have their own rooms. They should wear bandages to cover wounds and shared equipment like physical therapy equipment should be cleaned and disinfected after use.
[H/t: Consumer Reports]