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Deadly 'Superbug' Cases Increase In Maryland

Patch logo Patch 11/16/2019 Deb Belt
Most Candida auris infections in the U.S. have been found in Illinois, New York and New Jersey, but Maryland has several cases. © Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control Most Candida auris infections in the U.S. have been found in Illinois, New York and New Jersey, but Maryland has several cases.

BALTIMORE, MD — New federal health data was released this week about an "urgent threat" regarding a dangerous, drug-resistant fungal infection that's risen in 14 states, including Maryland, over the past seven months. Cases of "Candida auris" are a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection that is emerging globally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of late October, five confirmed cases of the infection have been confirmed in Maryland, up from three cases in April.

New York has confirmed 388 cases of Candida auris infection, followed by 227 cases in Illinois and 137 cases in New Jersey. Nationwide, more than 800 cases have been confirmed, along with 30 probable cases.

According to the Maryland Department of Public Health, it has been investigating several cases of Candida auris, which can spread easily in healthcare settings. "Previous cases in Maryland were likely acquired in places outside of Maryland where C. auris was already known to be spreading; however, recently detected cases were likely acquired in Maryland," the state said.

A CDC report released on Wednesday placed Candida auris among five "superbugs" that are considered "urgent threats" to the United States, killing someone in the United States every 15 minutes. The same report says more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.

"CDC is concerned about rising resistant infections in the community, which can put more people at risk, make spread more difficult to identify and contain, and threaten the progress made to protect patients in healthcare," the report says. "The emergence and spread of new forms of resistance remains a concern."

This yeast is difficult to identity and often does not respond to commonly used anti-fungal drugs, leading to high mortality, according to Rutgers University officials.

Based on information from a limited number of patients, the CDC says, 30 to 60 percent of people with C. auris infections have died. However, many of these people had other serious illnesses that also increased their risk of death.

The disease has presented itself as enough of a threat that the CDC awarded Rutgers University a $300,000 contract over two years to fight the infection's spread as part of the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative.

'It's acting like a superbug," Paige Armstrong, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, has said. "Without appropriate infection control and really a rigorous response, [it] could lead to even more cases in the United States."

What is Candida auris?

Candida grows as yeast, and symptoms include difficulty swallowing, burning, genital itching and sometimes a cheese-like discharge that looks white, according to the CDC.

In 2009, C. auris was first described in a patient in Japan. There is documented transmission of C. auris to US patients from healthcare facilities in India, Pakistan, South Africa and Venezuela, according to the CDC.

Fungal infections often cause serious disease among patients with compromised immune systems or other debilitating conditions resulting in high morbidity and mortality. Globally, nearly 1.4 million deaths a year are attributed to invasive fungal infections, which is on par with deadly diseases like tuberculosis, according to the CDC.

Here are ways to avoid contracting the disease:

  • One of the best ways to prevent the spread of dangerous germs like C. auris in healthcare settings is good hand hygiene. Washing hands frequently can help prevent its spread.
  • Early and accurate identification, rigorous infection control practices, and communication between facilities are key to reducing the spread in healthcare settings.
  • Proper infection control involves consistent hand washing, use of personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment and the healthcare environment.
  • When patients are transferred to other healthcare facilities, the receiving facilities should be notified of C. auris infection and the level of precautions recommended.

Tom Davis, Patch National Staff, contributed to this article.

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