One of the biggest threats to hospital patients are HAIs – healthcare associated infections. Sepsis, MRSA and c. diff are the most common (and can be the deadliest if left untreated), but any infection is dangerous, especially to people with weakened immune systems. In particular, the elderly, young children, people with auto-immune conditions and anyone recovering from a surgical procedure are at the highest risk.
Since June of 2016, doctors throughout the country have been on-notice for a fungal infection called Candida auris, an emerging pathogen that has proved resistant to multiple drugs, and has been spreading across the globe at an alarming rate. The Washington Post explains:
“Unlike garden variety yeast infections, [Candida auris] causes serious bloodstream infections, spreads easily from person to person in health-care settings, and survives for months on skin and for weeks on bed rails, chairs and other hospital equipment. Some strains are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs. Based on information from a limited number of patients, up to 60 percent of people with these infections have died.”
Patients in long-term care situations – those on ventilators, or with central line catheters – are at the greatest risk of infection. So far, 35 people have been diagnosed with the infection (including a patient in Maryland, too, last April) and 18 others have been diagnosed as “carrying the organism,” though they have not gotten sick.
Can the Candida auris fungal infection be cured?
So far, yes. Because the U.S. doesn’t have its own “homegrown” strain of the fungus yet, our existing medications and drugs have been effective in treating it. However, if the strain mutates or changes (as infections are known to do, as they are exposed to new environments), then doctors could lose the ability to treat patients.
What kind of infection can you get from Candida auris?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Candida auris “has caused bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections. It also has been isolated from respiratory and urine specimens, but it is unclear if it causes infections in the lung or bladder.”
Bloodstream infections are especially dangerous; sepsis and septicemia kill about 600 people every single day. The rapidity with which the infection can spread throughout the body via the blood is why these types of infections are so dangerous.
What are the symptoms of Candida auris?
Symptoms of the infection can be difficult to identify, because most people with the infection are already sick. However, a fever or chills that do not improve with antibiotics are the most common signs. If the infection reaches the bloodstream, it could spread to other parts of the body, too, such as the eyes or joints, which may present with different symptoms. Doctors will have to run tests to determine whether or not you have the infection.
Though there has only been one recorded case of the fungal infection in Maryland, doctors must remain vigilant. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, or a small child who has recently been hospitalized, make sure to seek immediate medical attention if he or she exhibits signs of fever or infection that don’t seem to be clearing up.
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