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CDC Warns Drug-Resistant Fungus is 'Emerging Threat'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that action needs to be taken quickly to stop the spread of a new drug-resistant fungus that has surfaced in the United States.

Thirteen cases of Candida auris, a sometimes fatal infection, have been identified in the country, the CDC said today, and it “tends to occur” in hospitalized patients. The new statistics follow a June alert issued by the CDC asking laboratories to forward positive results to government health officials.

“We need to act now to better understand, contain and stop the spread of this drug-resistant fungus,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “This is an emerging threat, and we need to protect vulnerable patients and others.”

The agency’s new report detailing seven cases identified through August said they occurred in New York, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey. Four of those seven patients died, though it’s unclear if it was due to the fungus or other health conditions.

Two cases who had “nearly identical” strains of the fungus were treated in the same facility, heightening concern about its spread in healthcare settings.

Most of the infections were misidentified as another type of fungus at first, the CDC said.

Those who appear to be at highest risk of contracting the fungus “have previously received antibiotics or antifungal medications” and/or spent time in intensive care. The fungus can cause bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections, and potentially lung or bladder infections.

The fungus has occured in eastern Asia, southern Asia, southern Africa, and South America, but has been “relatively different across regions.” Countries affected have included Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya, Kuwait, Israel, Venezuela, Colombia, and the United Kingdom. The United States and Canada were just recently added to the list. It’s not believed to be a concern for travelers, unless they have to be hospitalized.

“Early evidence suggests that the organism might spread in healthcare settings through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment, or from person to person,” the CDC said. “More work is needed to understand how it spreads.”