Over the past nine months, the number of people infected with a new superbug in the United States has grown from seven to 122, according to yesterday’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the report, the bug is known as Candida auris and it is “often multidrug-resistant.”
MedicineNet.com defines Candida auris as “a yeast-like fungus. It “causes invasive infections with a high death rate (about 57%) and causes mainly bloodstream, wound, and ear infections.”
Symptoms include fever and chills while using antimicrobial medication and little response to traditional antifungal drugs. According to MedicineNet.com, failure to find an appropriate treatment can lead to coma, organ failure, and death.
While the CDC is still collecting data on how the fungus spreads, MedicineNet.com reports that a likely culprit is contact with contaminated surfaces. The fungus may also spread through person-to-person contact.
The states it has appeared in are as follows:
- New York (53 cases)
- New Jersey (16 cases)
- Illinois (four cases)
- Indiana (one case)
- Maryland (one case)
- Massachusetts (one case)
- Oklahoma (one case)
The remaining 45 cases, the CDC reports, appeared in “close contacts” with the victims, mainly patients located in the same hospital area as the primarily infected.
“It seems to affect the sickest of the sick patients, particularly those in hospitals and nursing homes with other medical problems,” said the report’s lead author Sharon Tsay according to CNN.
“This is a fungus that’s acting a lot like some super bacteria that we’ve seen previously,” she reportedly stated, adding that “most cases of C. auris that have been reported have been from the blood,” although it has been observed in other areas of the body.
“The fact that it has been found in other sites may also reflect its ability to persist on a patient’s body and spread in the environment around them – one of [the] reasons that C. auris is causing outbreaks.”
According to CNN, some strains of Candida auris are resistant to all classes of antifungal drugs.
Most of the cases doctors have observed in the U.S., however, have reportedly been treatable with some drug or another.
Nonetheless, CNN cites CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer Paige Armstrong who states that the antifungal-resistant properties of some strains of C. auris is “very concerning.”
According to ConsumerReports.org, there are several protective steps one can take to prevent the spread of Candida auris.
Because the fungus has not yet been observed occurring outside hospitals, these tips are mainly for people who visit healthcare facilities.
- Wash your hands very well before you enter a hospital room and insist that nurses/healthcare providers do the same (ConsumerReports.org, citing the CDC states that healthcare workers only wash their hands properly less than half the time).
- Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve come into physical contact with a patient.
- Ask healthcare workers if anyone in the facility has Candida auris. If the answer is affirmative, ask what precautions are in place. According to ConsumerReports.org, infected patients need to be in their own single room, handled only by people wearing gowns and gloves.
- If the patient you’re visiting is on antibiotics, ask if it’s 100% necessary. According to ConsumerReports.org, citing Dr. David Denning, antibiotic therapy presents significant risks for invasive candida.