SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – A new fungal infection is spreading across the United States and in New York State at a staggering rate. Candida Auris.
Candida Auris (C. Auris) is a drug-resistant fungal infection initially identified back in 2009 in Asia, and is now spreading rapidly in the United States. As of 2021, C. Auris infections are up 95%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York state specifically has more infections than most other states across the country.
The CDC registered almost 2,400 C. Auris cases across the country in just the last year. The reason for the continued spread is because Candida Auris has the extreme ability to survive on surfaces, according to Dr. Waleed Javaid, an epidemiologist and an infectious disease expert and director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York.
The most common symptoms of C. Auris include fever and chills, according to the CDC.
Even with the rise in cases Dr. James Alexander, the medical director of Onondaga County, is not worried about the risk for the general public.
“It is quite unlikely that somebody of normal health and younger age groups, very unlikely they’re going to get sick,” Dr. Alexander said about the risk for most Americans.
Even though the general public is not at risk, the rising spread of the fungus is concerning because of the possibility of it becoming community spread.
“Often they [pathogens] start out extremely rare, then they emerge in more and more places and become widespread,” Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said in an interview. “It’s important to stop the pathogen so it doesn’t spread beyond hospitals and long-term facilities.”
Currently, there is a concern for high-risk i ndividuals. The majority of cases that result in severe illness originate from people that are already sick, high risk individuals, or people in the hospital. One-third of people who become sick with C. Auris die from the infection, according to the CDC.
“The people at risk are the older people with medical problems, the people who are immunocompromised,” Dr. Alexander revealed the specific group of people this fungus impacts the most.
Another reason this fungal infection is spreading rapidly within hospitals and special care facilities. The reason for the spread i s because C. Auris is resistant to common treatments such as antibiotics.
“The typical first line antifungal medications are not effective in many cases against this fungus,” Dr. Alexander said. “There is also a delay in identifying this virus because not every lab tests for it, there are only 7 labs in the country that test for it.”
As a result of the increasing spread in the United States and New York State, Dr. Alexander is confident that Onondaga County will register cases at some point soon.
“It’s not a question of if we’re going to get them,” Dr. Alexander said. “But a question of when we’re going to get the first one.”
Replicating certain measures used during Covid-19 will help to prevent the spread of the fungus. These measures include hand washing and ensuring medical professionals are wearing adequate personal protective gear.
For more information about the fungus and to find out what you can do to stop the spread of Candida Auris, go to the CDC website.