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CDC warns cases of dangerous fungus rising quickly in U.S.

Dangerous fungus cases rising in U.S., CDC warns
Dangerous fungus cases rising in U.S., CDC warns 02:47

BOSTON - The Centers for Disease Control is sounding an alarm about the rise of cases of the drug-resistant fungus Candida auris in healthcare facilities across the country. 

Cases of the fungus first appeared in the United States in 2016 but have begun to accelerate in recent years, doubling in 2021, according to CDC data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Experts say the fungus is not a threat to healthy people who can carry the yeast on their skin and not even realize it. The yeast can spread by skin to skin and skin to surface contact in hospitals and nursing homes, threatening the very ill. 

"It's the person with advanced age, someone in a nursing home, someone with advanced diabetes or cancer or undergoing chemotherapy treatments, somethings weak in their immune system. That person may notice a variety of infections," said Dr. Michael Mansour, an infectious disease specialist focusing on fungal pathogens at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Candida auris is resistant to at least one kind of antifungal drug and can be deadly. CDC scientists say roughly one in three patients with invasive infections will die. 

"It's the same percentage for any Candida infection that is really highly invasive," Mansour said. 

According to a CDC database, there were 2,377 clinical cases of Candida auris in the U.S. last year. There were just two in Massachusetts. The CDC recorded 1,474 in the U.S. in 2021. 

Mansour says cases may be climbing because the country emerged from the isolation of the COVID pandemic. 

"It's possible that in that shift we may have opened up the opportunity for Candida auris but probably for other things too," Mansour said. 

Mansour said simple hygiene measures like handwashing can prevent the spread of the fungus. 

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