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Texas, Arkansas report cases of deadly Candida auris infection

by Stevon Gamble | March 26, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.
Medical technologist Mitan Shah looks over a cultural plate as he performs a testing process for Candida auris in the microbiology/virology lab Friday, March 24, 2023, at Stroger Hospital in Chicago. (Photo by Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

TEXARKANA -- There's a deadly, drug-resistant fungus among us, and the CDC warns that it is targeting people already dealing with health issues.

Candida auris is spreading at an alarming rate since first being reported in the United States in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said March 20.

The fungus can cause bloodstream infections. More than 1 in 3 patients with a severe infection die, according to the CDC.

"In general, C. auris is not a threat to healthy people. People who are very sick, have invasive medical devices or have long or frequent stays in health care facilities are at increased risk," the agency states.

From January to December in 2022, the CDC tracked 2,377 clinical cases. At least 160 cases were reported in Texas, according to the CDC. One case was reported in Arkansas in September, Danyelle McNeill, public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, said Friday to the Gazette.

Twenty-nine states in all have confirmed at least one case of C. auris, with the most cases in Nevada (384).

A state-by-state breakdown of the number of deaths was not immediately available.

Candida auris is a type of yeast resistant to a number of antifungal drugs, and it is easily transmissible.

"C. auris can spread from one patient to another through direct person-to-person contact. The yeast can also spread through contaminated environmental surfaces, medical devices or equipment," according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The fungus can remain on a person's skin for some time without causing any symptoms in a process known as colonization. However, the yeast can multiply to the point of entering the bloodstream and causing sepsis.

Diagnosing a C. auris infection can be difficult, since sufferers typically are battling another health issue.

"The most common symptoms of invasive Candida infection are fever and chills that don't improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection," the CDC states.

A lab test is needed for positive identification.

The CDC suggests a number of reasons for the rapid rise in C. auris infections.

"Case counts have increased for many reasons, including poor general infection prevention and control practices in health care facilities. Case counts may also have increased because of enhanced efforts to detect cases, including increased colonization screening, a test to see if someone has the fungus somewhere on their body but does not have an infection or symptoms of infection," the agency reports.

There is even a coronavirus-related factor to consider.

"The timing of this increase and findings from public health investigations suggest C. auris spread may have worsened due to strain on healthcare and public health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic," the CDC suggests.

Preventing C. auris infection involves basic practices. The Texas DSHS recommends thoroughly washing hands, using alcohol-based sanitizer, carefully cleaning equipment and other surfaces in a health care facility, taking antibiotics as prescribed, and informing health care workers if you have been in the hospital at another facility or in another country.

"If K-12 students or children in daycare have a C. auris infection, they shouldn't go to school until the wound is dry, clean and bandaged," the Texas DSHS states.

Print Headline: Texas, Arkansas report cases of deadly Candida auris infection


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