One hundred twenty-two people in seven states have now been diagnosed with a new strain of deadly fungal infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Candida auris kills between 30% and 60% of infectees
Unfortunately, this is no ordinary fungus. Known as Candida auris, this particular strain of yeast can cause serious bloodstream infections, wound infections and ear infections. It is also suspected in possible respiratory and bladder infections.
C. auris is easily transmitted from person to person and can also spread through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment, according to the CDC.
After an initial report of cases in five states, these seven states have now reported outbreaks:
This data chart only reflects reported cases through April 2017. Another 45 cases have been reported since then, which brings the total to 122 reported cases as of May 12.
A drug-resistant superbug, C. auris invades organs causing victims to experience symptoms such as fever and low blood pressure.
So far the fungus is most prevalent among the sickest patients and has been found mostly in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Sadly, it is estimated that between 30% and 60% of people with C. auris infections died. But the full virulence of the bug isn’t completely understood yet because those people were already in compromised health from other issues.
C. auris first came on the CDC’s radar in June 2016.
Thankfully, it’s still being described as ‘very rare,’ according to CDC spokesman Tom Chiller.
How do you treat C. auris?
There’s good news and bad news on this front.
First, the good news: Most cases of C. auris are treatable with echinocandins, a particular class of antifungal drugs.
Now, the bad news: Sometimes C. auris has proven resistant to the three main classes of antifungal medications. In such cases, a patient may require massive doses of multiple classes of antifungal drugs.
Who is most at risk of contracting C. auris?
Being in an institution such as a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility for a prolonged period will increase your chances of picking up superbugs in general.
C. auris manifests most often among sick patients with an average age of 70 and multiple medical problems. Though it has been reported in cases involving infants as well.
Especially at risk are those with weakened immune systems; who have a central venous catheter; who have had a recent surgery; who are also diabetic; or who are on broad-spectrum antibiotics or antifungal medications not targeted to any one specific bacteria or fungus.
How can transmission rates be cut down?
The best method to eradicate C. auris on surfaces is to do a thorough cleaning with a sodium hypochlorite-based disinfectant. Pay particular attention to cleaning areas and surfaces including mattresses, beds, windowsills, chairs, infusion pumps and countertops.
And don’t forget standard hygiene practices that should be followed in all institutional settings — washing hands with hot water and soap and wearing protective equipment.