A deadly fungal infection called Candida auris is spreading rapidly in the United States, with four people in Washington state testing positive this month. Despite being rare, doctors caution that infection can still be potentially hazardous due to its high fatality rate, drug resistance, and its ability to easily spread in healthcare facilities, as per a report in NBC News.
Following the confirmation of the first case on January 10, the public health agency for Seattle and King County said on Tuesday that it had found three further instances of Candida auris infection last week.
The pathogen typically infects individuals with weakened immune systems and is resistant to several popular antifungal drugs. Patients in hospitals who use feeding tubes, breathing tubes, or catheters are frequently found to have it.
According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), it can cause infections in different parts of the body such as in the bloodstream, open wounds, and ears. The site and level of infection determine the symptoms. A bacterial infection may present similar symptoms to Candida auris. However, there is not a typical set of signs and symptoms associated with infections.
The fungal infection can be found on the skin and other body sites without a person being sick. This is often labelled as “colonization”, where a person may potentially transmit it to others without necessarily becoming ill. “Someone who is colonized can still transmit C. auris onto surfaces or objects that they contact, which can then spread it to other patients,” the CDC said on its website.
If a patient is colonized or infected, they should be placed in a room separated from those at risk. The room should be cleaned with disinfectant products, and the caregiver should wear gloves and gowns. People should use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash their hands before entering and leaving a Candida auris patient’s room and before and after contact with the patient or a patient’s medical devices to prevent its spread.
Cases of Candida auris, discovered in Japan 15 years ago, have skyrocketed in the last few years. In 2022, it infected 2,377 people compared to 53 in 2016, the outlet further said. The swift spread of the fungus in most of the US states and 40 countries has prompted the CDC and World Health Organisation to label it as a growing threat. In 2021, the fungus infected 1,471 people, according to CDC data.