More than 500 cases of Candida auris, which is frequently transmitted in health-care settings, have been reported across the US. The medical community is increasingly worried about Candida auris, more commonly referred to as C. auris, a fungus that can thrive on different surfaces for weeks. According the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three people who contract the infection will die from it.
The Illinois Department of Public Health warned Monday that there were now more than 150 cases in the state, most of them in or around Chicago, ABC 7 reported. Currently, there are more than 500 cases across the US in 12 states, with the most reported in New York, followed by Illinois.
The infection was first found in a Japanese patient's ear canal in 2009. Since then, it has spread across countries including Colombia, India, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
When a man hospitalized for surgery at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York tested positive for the infection, doctors moved him to the intensive care unit (ICU). After fighting the infection for 90 days, he died in May 2018, and C. auris was found all over the room, reported The New York Times. Hospital officials were forced to use special cleaning materials and remove parts of the ceiling and tiles in the floor to completely eradicate traces of the fungus.
All reported cases in the US have been found in patients who had stayed in hospitals in India, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Africa, the UAE and Venezuela — all countries that have reported cases of C. auris as well.
No information is available yet on how the fungus spreads, but the CDC reports that it's often resistant to typical antifungal medications and can be misidentified as another fungus unless "specialized laboratory technology is used."
The CDC has labeled the fungus a "global emerging threat." A majority of the reported cases have two things in common: the patients suffer from pre-existing medical conditions, and they have stayed in healthcare facilities for an extended period of time.
The NY Times has also reported that many hospitals have kept C. auris cases in their facilities under wraps, out of fear of getting a bad reputation.