Doctors educate public on fungus identified as ‘serious global health threat’

Candida Auris, otherwise known as “C. Auris,” is a type of yeast that can cause severe illnesses and could even land folks in the hospital.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:35 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Candida Auris, otherwise known as “C. Auris,” is a type of yeast that can cause severe illnesses and could even land folks in the hospital, if they have a weakened immune system.

The CDC identifies this as a “serious global health threat,” particularly for those who are older or already classified as a high-risk patient. 30-60% of people infected by the fungus died, but many of these patients had other underlying health issues.

However, if healthy, doctors say they do not need to worry.

The CDC says the fungus is primarily spreading in medical clinics and nursing homes. Patients who have to stay for long periods of time, or have lines and tubes going into their body, like catheters or feeding tubes are more susceptible. The symptoms usually include fever or chills.

There are some ways people can keep themselves safe, if they come in contact with someone who was C. Auris, it’s best to wash your hands. For health care workers and laboratory staff, the CDC recommends wearing gowns and gloves, and double down on cleaning patients’ rooms.

WAFB reached out to several local hospital systems to see how they’ve been protecting patients. Ochsner Health sent WAFB a statement:

3/21/23 - National outbreak of Candida Auris (C.auris) -Media Statement (with Dr. Baumgarten):

Candida Auris (C.auris) is a fungus that is on the rise in our region. While C. auris is not a threat to healthy individuals, it can pose a serious threat to high-risk patients because of its potential for multi-drug resistance. In the United States, outbreaks have typically occurred in long-term acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Patients at high risk for acquiring an overgrowth of C. auris include those who have a central venous catheter or lines or tubes entering their body, immune compromising conditions, broad-spectrum antibiotic or anti-fungal use, and prolonged admissions to healthcare facilities.

At Ochsner Health, our Infection Prevention and Control, Environmental Services and provider teams have implemented all CDC-recommended infection prevention and control measures to prevent outbreaks of fungal infections. We practice these mitigation efforts on a daily basis already:

• Strict hand hygiene compliance (washing or alcohol-based hand sanitizer)

• Contact isolation precautions

• Daily cleaning and disinfection using specific products

In addition, we regularly educate our providers so that they can quickly identify C. auris in hospitalized patients. In the event a case is identified, we implement special precautions to stop its spread. All healthcare facilities in Louisiana work with the Louisiana Department of Health on tracing and surveillance of C. auris.

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our teams and our patients. We continue to work closely with our microbiology staff, our labs, and local and state health officials to prevent the spread of C. auris and other infectious diseases.

  • Katherine Baumgarten, MD, medical director of infection control and prevention, Ochsner Health

If you suspect that you have this infected fungus, the CDC recommends you reach out to your primary care physician.

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