Drug-Resistant Yeast Infection Spreading Through Hospitals Nationwide, CDC Warns

Federal health officials are warning about a potentially deadly yeast infections, which is spreading throughout the country, mainly among hospitalized individuals. 

A health alert was issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month, which reports that 53 cases of Candida Auris have been detected in the United States as of mid-March. Nearly 60% of individuals who contracted the drug-resistant yeast infection have died.

Candida auris, or C. auris, is a potentially lethal bloodstream fungus, which was first seen in Japan in 2009. It has become a serious global health threat, with healthcare facilities in several countries reporting that it has caused severe illness among hospitalized patients. The fungus is still relatively rare in the U.S., but has been reported with increasing frequency.

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The hospital C. auris infections are resistant to common anti-fungal medications, including the three major classes of anti-fungal drugs. To that end, it is often treated concurrently with all three drugs. However, researchers warn this type of drug resistance has not been seen in other species of candida.

Especially problematic is the mobility of the fungus, as the infection can move from person to person within hospitals.

It also acts like bacteria, because it sticks to surfaces and can live on contaminated objects, including bedrails, catheters, chairs, and even the hands of doctors and other healthcare providers. It has the potential to cause serious infection outbreaks because it is hard to kill, even in hospitals with strong infection control methods.

C. auris is not seen in the community at large. It’s mostly a hospital-acquired infection that affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those in ICUs for extended periods of time, patients with central lines or nursing home residents.

The highest number of cases have occurred in New York, with several cases identified in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey from 2015 to March 2017. The CDC issued a warning concerning the fungal infection in 2016, as the infection began to spread across the country.

The most common signs and symptoms include fever and chills, especially if the symptoms don’t improve after treatment with antibiotics.

In recent years, an increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits over hospital infections are being filed, as many experts believe that these infections can be prevented with the exercise of reasonable care.

According to prior research, preventable hospital infections cost the U.S. Economy nearly $19.5 billion in 2008 and claimed more than 2,500 lives that year.

Implementation of simple procedures, such as more frequent hand washing for healthcare professionals, timely removal of catheters deterring prolonged use and thorough instrument and patient room cleaning are widely recognized steps that can prevent many of these hospital infection problems.

Health officials warn that patients should follow certain precautions to prevent candida yeast infections. Patients and guests should wash their hands when entering patient rooms and request doctors and healthcare staff do the same. They should ask if the hospital has had recent C. auris infections, take precautionary measures if so, and ask about hospital cleaning procedures.

C. auris can be difficult to diagnose without lab tests and can be misidentified without specific technology. The CDC calls on laboratories and doctors who identify C. auris strains to notify the CDC at candidaauris@cdc.gov.

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