CDC expressing concern about rapidly growing fungus, now in Pennsylvania
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - This may sound like the plot line to the hit HBO show, "The Last of Us," where a fungus collapses society, but this is real: There is a fungus, candida auris, that the CDC is calling an urgent threat.
An infection prevention doctor with UPMC said this is not like the popular show. This fungus is relatively new, according to UPMC's Dr. Graham Snyder. It's only about 10 to 20 years old.
It is a very rare yeast infection. Dr. Snyder said that's why the CDC is spreading its concerns. They don't want this to become more common.
Right now, the infections are mostly in health care facilities around the country, "particularly health care facilities where people are seriously ill," Dr. Snyder said over Zoom.
It's a type of yeast that could cause severe illness in people with weak immune systems, and even lead to death.
According to the CDC, it's been detected in more than half of the United States. Pennsylvania has 33 cases, while New York has 326 and New Jersey has 94.
The Allegheny County Health Department reports zero cases for the year, and it only had two in 2022 in a county of more than a million people.
"For our day-to-day lives, our concern should be very low. Learn about it and understand it, but realize it's extremely unlikely to impact your day-to-day life," Dr. Snyder said.
The CDC says candida auris is very concerning, because it's often resistant to anti-fungal drugs, so it's tough to treat infections. It can also be difficult to identify in lab tests and distinguish from other yeasts, which leads to a misdiagnosis.
The CDC says those who are healthy shouldn't be worried. However, those who are sick, staying in the hospital for a long time or have invasive medical devices are most at risk.
According to the CDC, the most common signs are a fever and chills that don't improve after taking antibiotics. Other symptoms could be a rash, muscle aches and belly pain.
For some people, they will never know they have the fungus. Some may have a mild infection with it, and others could end up being seriously ill. In some situations, candida auris can infect the bloodstream and be life-threatening.
"So it can cause the whole spectrum," Dr. Snyder explained.
You would know if you have it if your doctor diagnoses you. You may be a high risk if you have been somewhere that's contaminated. The fungus spreads by touching someone with it or a contaminated surface. There should not be panic with this.
"I don't think it will develop anything like the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Snyder said.
He stressed that doctors want to keep the impact low so more treatments can be developed to prevent the fungus from becoming an issue.
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