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CDC warns of deadly fungus spreading at alarming rate

WHO ranked 'Candida auris' among the worst fungal threats facing public health.

SAN DIEGO — The CDC is warning about a potentially deadly fungus that's spreading at an alarming rate in hospitals. Cases have been reported in at least 30 states including California.

The World Health Organization last year ranked Candida auris among the worst fungal threats facing public health. The CDC has reported cases nearly doubled in 2021 and have continued to increase.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert, says it can be deadly for people who have weak immune systems. 

"People getting it through the skin, into catheters like IV lines then getting into blood stream. Unfortunately then people get really sick," she said.

She says about one in three patients who are seriously infected die. Candida auris cases are growing. The CDC reported 756 in 2020, more than 1,400 in 2021 and more than 2,300 cases in preliminary data of 2022. It is often drug-resistant. 

"We have to pull out big gun antifungals to use for this. Fundamentally get on top of cleaning things, using less antibiotics, good infection control practices," Dr. Gandhi said.

The CDC says California has the second most cases in the nation. In September 2021, two patients tested positive in San Diego County at two separate healthcare facilities. Health officials recommend screenings to detect the fungus and taking special steps to isolate infected patients.

"It's still very rare to cause serious infections. Really just in immuno-compromised people in long-term care facilities but raising the alarm is the right thing to do," she said.

She says healthy people can be infected with the fungus and have no idea since they have no symptoms. 

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