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What’s the local risk to highly-contagious fungus at hospitals?

Doctors across the United States are increasingly concerned about the spread of Candida auris, a yeast infection that can cause severe and even fatal infections, and is proving to be highly drug-resistant. According to CDC tracking, New York State has some of the highest case counts of the fungus in the country.

Doctors in the state have reported a rapid increase in the number of cases of Candida auris year over year, prompting the CDC to issue a warning about the fungus. Dr. Stephen Thomas, director of global health and a professor of medicine at Upstate Hospital, has warned that the fungus can be fatal, with up to 60% of people who get severe infections dying as a result.

Dr. James Alexander, the medical director of the Onondaga County Health Department, has expressed similar concerns about the data, stating that the number of cases is essentially doubling each year, and that this is cause for concern.

While a CDC map shows high case numbers in New York, Dr. Thomas has stated that Upstate Hospital has not yet seen an infection. However, he stressed that it is not a matter of if but when the fungus will appear at the hospital.

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Those at greatest risk are immunocompromised people who spend long periods of time in hospitals or nursing homes. According to Dr. Thomas, people can carry the fungus without displaying symptoms and unknowingly spread it, making it difficult to contain.

Overusing antibiotics has contributed to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, including Candida auris, so it is best practice to work to prevent infection, according to Dr. Thomas. “Don’t use antibiotics when you don’t need them and wash your hands as frequently as possible. Those are the things people can do and if you’re in one of those high-risk groups that I mentioned and you get sick, see your doctor,” he advised.