April 08, 2019
In May 2018, an elderly Brooklynite admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital for abdominal surgery was found to be infected with a mysterious and deadly germ, according to the New York Times. He died.
The germ, Candida auris, or C. auris, a fungus that grows as yeast, was first discovered in the ear of a Japanese woman in 2009. (It was noticed for the first time in the United States four years later.) Since then, there's been quite an uptick in the number of global infections: a total count of 617 confirmed cases as of March 29, with 587 of them in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Candida auris is a "superbug," is a term used to describe "strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today," according to MayoClinic.org.
As a result, the CDC said, a third of patients with an invasive C.auris infection die.
The government health agency is concerned about the yeast for three main reasons:
• It has been found to be multi drug-resistant, even fending off antifungal drugs used to treat other Candida infections.
• It’s difficult to identify and can be misidentified in labs lacking certain technology, which can lead to improper treatment.
• It is crucial to quickly identify C.auris because it is known to cause outbreaks in healthcare facilities.
Now, nearly a year later, the fungus is popping up at a rate concerning to Americans and health professionals alike.
“Most C. auris cases in the United States have been detected in the New York City area, New Jersey and the Chicago area,” the CDC explained in a statement. Its data shows that Illinois has 144 confirmed cases, New Jersey has 104 and New York has a whopping 309 confirmed cases. Pennsylvania is not on the list.
Another difficult thing about C. auris is that symptoms may be difficult to detect because infections typically occur in patients who are already sick, according to the CDC. But the most common symptoms of C. auris – fever and chills – that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection. Ultimately, only a lab test can identify the infection.
The fungus can cause infections in the bloodstream, wounds and the ears, CBS News explained. It’s worth noting that people who live in nursing homes, have recently had surgery or who have breathing tubes, feeding tubes or central venous catheters appear to be at highest risk, CBS added.
C. auris can be quite deadly. The Sun reported that 2018 study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found 45 percent of patients died within 90 days of being diagnosed with the infection.
Of course, C. auris isn’t the first superbug we’ve seen in recent years. Vox reported that the United States sees 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses from drug-resistant infections every year – an estimate thought to be actually quite conservative.
Some people argue that there needs to be public notification for these superbug outbreaks. The thing is, doing so might be counterproductive, Dr. Jason Burnham, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told Vox:
“If people are too scared to go to the hospital, they may delay their care, becoming sicker and sicker until their situation is an emergency.” When health problems become emergencies, people are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die, he added.