Washington state sees outbreak of deadly Candida auris infection; know symptoms and ways to prevent it

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As Candida auris continues to spread in the United States, four persons in Washington state have tested positive for the deadly fungal infection.

Washington State reports four cases of Candida auris (Getty Images)

In a statement, Public Health – Seattle & King County said this is the state’s first known outbreak of the fungus. However, the first case was detected last year in July. No deaths have been reported so far.

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A proactive screening method discovered the patient in the first case, who had just been admitted to Kindred Hospital Seattle.

The health department reported that further tests turned up two other cases in addition to a case connected to Kindred, who had initially tested negative for C. Auris upon admission.

Officials stated that an investigation is underway, although it is currently unknown what the infection’s original source is.

In a statement, Kindred Hospital Seattle First Hill stated that all three of the infected patients “were appropriately isolated from the rest of the patient population with extra clinical and cleaning precautions to prevent spread.” As of now, none of the three patients have symptoms, NBC News reported.

The agency further declared that it received notification of the first occurrence on January 10 and the subsequent two cases on January 22 and January 26. When the patients were admitted to Kindred, one of them tested negative for Candida auris, indicating that they contracted the fungus sometime later.

According to the health department, one patient experienced an infection, meaning the fungus entered into a body organ (the bloodstream, the ears, or an open wound) where it could potentially cause symptoms.

“Most healthy people do not need to worry about C. auris infections,” said Claire Brostrom-Smith, Manager of the Healthcare Associated Infections Program at Public Health. “The risk is mainly for patients that have long stays at hospitals and need medical interventions like breathing tubes, feeding tubes or urinary catheters.”

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Origin of Candida auris

The first case of Candida auris was discovered in Japan in 2009. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked that laboratories in the United States report cases of it. A subsequent check of records revealed cases back from 2013.

The most dramatic increase was reported between 2020 and 2021, when there was a 94% increase in cases of Candida auris.

What is Candida auris & why is it dangerous?

A fungus called Candida auris has the potential to seriously infect humans. The number of C. auris infections found in the United States has been rising, despite the fact that instances were formerly more prevalent in other nations.

C. auris frequently responds poorly to antifungal medications that are typically used to treat fungal infections. Certain C. auris infections have actually been shown to be resistant to each of the three primary categories of antifungal medications.

It is possible for C. auris to spread throughout the body while a patient exhibits no symptoms. This is referred to as “colonization” when it occurs. However, invasive infections, which can be extremely dangerous, will eventually develop in 5 to 10% of people who have been “colonized” with C. auris. In fact, over 45% of patients die within the first 30 days of developing symptoms of deadly infection.

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Candida auris: Are you at risk?

Patients in long-term acute care facilities are usually the ones who are most at risk in the United States. They frequently have endotracheal tubes or central venous catheters, and they are generally quite sick. For a variety of causes, including strokes and severe brain injuries, some individuals are dependent on artificial ventilation.

Although healthy individuals seldom contract the infection, severe Candida auris infections in the United States have a 30% to 60% fatality rate.

Individuals can contract Candida auris by coming into close contact with a carrier of the fungus or by touching surfaces or objects that have been contaminated with it. The fungus can survive on surfaces for at least two weeks, according to studies.

Ways to prevent C. auris

C. auris infections are treated with antifungal drugs. Doctors typically recommend a class of drugs known as echinocandins.

Nevertheless, some infections caused by Candida auris are immune to all antifungal drugs, including echinocandins. Doctors prescribe high dosages of several antifungal drugs when this happens.

This particular fungal infection cannot be treated at home or with “natural” methods. Medical care is constantly required. Therefore, CDC recommends person to remain in isolation during treatment.

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