Both Texas and Louisiana are seeing a rise in a particular, dangerous fungal infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning.

The infection, which spreads easily in hospitals and nursing homes, greatly affects those who are already sick. Healthy people exposed to the fungus typically don't develop major symptoms.

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According to the CDC, Candida auris (C. auris) is "an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat." The health agency's Mycotic Diseases Branch tracks the number of C. auris cases in the United States over time "to assess the impact of prevention strategies and inform public health practices."

More from their public health website, "In the United States, most cases of C. auris result from local spread within and among healthcare facilities in the same city or state. However, healthcare facilities should be on the lookout for new introductions of C. auris from patients who received healthcare elsewhere in the United States or abroad in areas with C. auris transmission."

The infection has been seen in dozens of states across the country. It's been most severe in states like Texas, Florida, California, Nevada, and other states.

In Louisiana, there have been 10 cases reported. In Texas, there appear to be upwards of 150 cases.

The CDC has been tracking the C. auris cases and mapping them out, as you can see in the map below.

Credit: CDC
Credit: CDC
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What Is C. Auris?

Candida auris, often abbreviated as C. auris, is a multidrug-resistant fungus that poses a significant global health threat.

First identified in 2009 in Japan, C. auris has since been reported in various countries, causing severe infections, particularly in healthcare settings. What makes C. auris alarming is its resistance to multiple antifungal medications, making it challenging to treat and control.

This opportunistic pathogen primarily affects individuals with weakened immune systems, often leading to bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections. Due to its resistance and ability to persist in the environment, C. auris can spread easily in healthcare facilities. Controlling its transmission involves rigorous infection control measures and heightened awareness within healthcare communities.

 

C. auris underscores the importance of global surveillance, rapid detection, and collaborative efforts to address emerging threats in infectious diseases.

"People can get C. auris on their skin and other body sites without getting sick or having an infection," the CDC explains. "You may hear healthcare providers refer to this as ‘colonization.’ Someone who is colonized can still transmit C. auris onto surfaces or objects that they contact, which can then spread it to other patients."

In general, the health agency says, C. auris "is not a threat to healthy people."

Preventing C. Auris

Preventing the spread of Candida auris (C. auris) involves implementing rigorous infection control measures in healthcare settings and taking precautions to minimize the risk of transmission. Here's a list of preventive measures:

Hand Hygiene: Emphasize regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers for healthcare workers and visitors.

 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Ensure the appropriate use of PPE, including gloves and gowns, especially when in contact with patients or their environment.

 

Environmental Cleaning: Implement strict protocols for cleaning and disinfecting patient care areas, surfaces, and medical equipment. Use appropriate antifungal agents for disinfection.

 

Isolation Precautions: Identify and isolate patients infected or colonized with C. auris. Implement contact precautions and maintain dedicated equipment for these individuals.

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Patient Screening: Consider routine screening for C. auris colonization, especially for patients at higher risk or those with prolonged hospital stays.

 

Healthcare Worker Training: Educate healthcare workers on C. auris, its transmission, and the importance of adherence to infection control protocols.

 

Visitor Education: Inform visitors about the risk of C. auris transmission and the necessary precautions, such as hand hygiene and the use of PPE.

 

Antifungal Stewardship: Implement strategies to optimize the use of antifungal medications, avoiding unnecessary prescriptions and minimizing the risk of drug resistance.

 

Surveillance and Reporting: Establish surveillance systems to detect cases promptly and report them to public health authorities to facilitate a coordinated response.

 

Collaboration: Foster communication and collaboration among healthcare facilities, public health agencies, and laboratories to share information and control the spread of C. auris effectively.

These measures collectively contribute to a comprehensive approach to preventing the transmission of C. auris and protecting both patients and healthcare workers.

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Gallery Credit: Joe Cunningham