How dangerous is Candida auris 'superbug'? CDC confirms over 100 cases in DC and Texas

The drug-resistant fungus has infected over 100 people in DC and Texas , 3people have died and CDC has


                            How dangerous is Candida auris 'superbug'? CDC confirms over 100 cases in DC and Texas
A sample of Candida auris (CDC Public Health Image Library) and the CDC logo (Kevin C Cox/Getty Images)

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed over 100 cases of the 'superbug' Candida auris (C. aurus) in the United States. According to the organization, cases of the drug-resistant fungus have been reported in Washington DC, and Dallas, Texas. So far, three people have been confirmed to have died from the fungal disease, but more deaths could be expected since there is no known cure. 

The news has caused widespread panic and concern, especially as it comes in the middle of a massive rise in Covid-19 cases in the US. The nation has recorded a massive increase in the number of Delta variant cases. Adding to the woes, the CDC has also confirmed that there is a very real threat of 'breakthrough Covid', where fully vaccinated people can fall seriously ill. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also flagged the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after an increase in cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome from vaccinated individuals. 

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As Democrats and Republicans are divided over how to respond, there is reason to be alarmed. Should you be concerned about Candida auris? Here's all the information we have, so you can make an informed decision. We urge you to refer to the CDC website for further information and updates, and not rely on the word of politicians or celebrities.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Joe Biden’s pick to head the Centers for Disease Control, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (hip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What is Candida auris?

The fungal infection is a type of yeast that was first identified in 2009 in Japan. So far, the fungus is not known to respond to commonly used antifungal drugs, meaning there is no known cure as of now. It is believed the disease can spread when people come in contact with contaminated surfaces, or person to person. There is still a lot we don't know about how the disease spreads or works. There are also no known unique symptoms. According to the CDC, anyone who has a fungal infection should see a healthcare provider immediately and get diagnosed.

Thankfully, C. aurus is not as widespread as Covid-19. The CDC believes most people are likely to be infected only from hospital settings, where certain equipment are not cleaned carefully. Cases have been reported all over the world, but have usually been controlled. "It is unlikely that routine travel to countries with documented C. auris infections would increase the chance of someone getting sick," the organization says. 

As of now, most cases have been reported from nursing homes and hospitals where individuals have had tubes inserted into their bodies. "Patients who have been hospitalized in a healthcare facility a long time, have a central venous catheter, or other lines or tubes entering their body, or have previously received antibiotics or antifungal medications, appear to be at highest risk of infection with this yeast," the CDC says

A screenshot of a CDC fact sheet regarding Candida auris. (CDC)

 

How dangerous is C. auris?

The challenge is, identifying C. auris requires specialized equipment and tools, making it hard to diagnose. However, so far the CDC has managed to record a large number of cases in the US. From 2013-2016, there were 63 known cases. Between January and April 2021, the CDC has identified 101 cases. Numbers indicate it is spreading fast, so you should be cautious. Since C. auris has no known cure, the disease can be deadly in some people.

The CDC estimates that roughly "30–60% of people with C. auris infections have died." Cases have been recorded amongst all age groups, but most deaths are in people with "other serious illnesses that also increased their risk of death." From the latest outbreak, three people have so far died. That number could increase, as more cases are recorded. As of now, cases have been identified in Washington DC and Dallas, but in the past, almost all states have seen cases of C. aurus. 

"This is the first time we’ve seen clusters of pan-resistant C. auris, which suggests spread within US healthcare facilities," Dr Meghan Lyman of the CDC said in a statement. She added, "we are urging healthcare facilities to take proactive steps to identify and prevent the spread of this fungus so that it does not gain a foothold in their patient population." So far, there is little you can do to prevent the disease. Since it is still being studied, the CDC does not offer any specific details on how to prevent spread.

That doesn't mean there's nothing you can do. If you are visiting a hospital or care home, you should always sanitize your hands, or wear gloves if possible. Avoid touching any frequently touched surfaces or surfaces that haven't been cleaned. The biggest step you can take though is to avoid spreading misinformation about C. aurus. Fake news about Covid-19 has already caused thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives. Please do not spread any information you come across, unless it has been linked back, or verified to the CDC. Encourage friends and family to get their information straight from the CDC, rather than other sources. 

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