This frightening map shows the spread of the C. auris fungal infection across the United States, with the most recent data showing an exponential growth in the disease since the first case was reported in the country in 2016.
Recently, there was an outbreak of the drug-resistant Candida auris fungus in Seattle, Washington. Health experts have warned that the infection spreads rapidly, especially in healthcare settings, and has a high fatality rate.
While the Seattle outbreak has caused alarm and headlines, the fungus has been present in other states for years. The source of the outbreak, according to Forbes, has not yet been confirmed, but all the infected people were patients at the same hospital in the city.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that the fungus, which is also known as Candida Auris or C. Auris, is a “serious global health threat.” It is resistant to many, if not all, treatments that are currently available and it is hard to manage for medical professionals due to the fact that it can be difficult to identify.
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The dangerous fungus was first reported in the United States in 2016. That year, according to the CDC, there were 63 clinical cases and 14 screening cases, which were spread across four states. Six of the cases were found to be in Illinois.
In 2017, the case count nationwide grew to 173 clinical cases and 272 screening cases, with the state of Indiana also reporting its first case of the fungus. As the years progressed, so did the spread of Candida Auris.
At the end of 2021, the CDC said there were 1,474 clinical cases and 4,040 screening cases across the United States. These figures included 82 cases in Illinois, 64 in Indiana, and for the first time since 2016, there was a case in Kentucky.
The most recent data, from the year 2022, shows that the fungal infection had grown exponentially over a year. There were 2,377 reported clinical cases and 5,754 screening cases nationwide, with 276 of those in Illinois, 87 in Indiana, and 22 reported in Kentucky.
The Indiana Department of Health called C. auris a “global health threat.” “C. auris is resistant to many of the antifungal drugs commonly used to treat infections. C. auris can cause many different types of infection, such as bloodstream, wound, urinary tract, and ear. Invasive C. auris infections have been associated with 30-60% mortality rates among hospitalized patients,” they warned.
According to the CDC, there is no “common set of symptoms specific for C. auris infections.” UC Davis Health, meanwhile, says that sweating, fever and chills are common symptoms for people who have contracted the fungal infection. “The fungus can cause a bloodstream infection. Fever, chills, sweats and low blood pressure are the most common symptoms of a C. auris infection. Infections have been found in patients of all ages, from preterm infants to the elderly,” they said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health, meanwhile, said that C. auris infections can cause serious infections, even in the bloodstream. It can even cause infection on a person’s skin. “C. auris can cause bloodstream infections and even death, particularly in hospital patients and nursing home residents with serious medical problems. More than 1 in 3 individuals with invasive C. auris infection (for example, an infection that affects the blood, heart, or brain) die,” they said.
Some people with C. auris may not exhibit any symptoms, but they can nevertheless spread the infection to other people. It can be spread through contact with a person or contact with a common surface or object that has been contaminated. Hand hygiene, according to the CDC, is an effective measure to curb the spread of the fungal infection.
“Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) is the preferred hand hygiene method for C. auris when hands are not visibly soiled. If hands are visibly soiled, wash with soap and water. Wearing gloves is not a substitute for hand hygiene,” the CDC warned.
Those with weakened and compromised immune systems and or underlying health issues are most prone to the impacts of C. auris, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Also especially susceptible are those who have recently had surgery, been on an extended course of antibiotics, or who have recently spent a prolonged period in a hospital or healthcare facility are also more likely to contract the fungus.
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