Candida auris (C. auris) is a fungus that can cause serious illness in people who are sick or immunocompromised. While C. auris is not considered a widespread threat to the general public, it can cause complications and death for immunocompromised individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings.
Why It’s a Threat
The CDC reports that through February of this year, 617 cases have been confirmed in the United States. New Jersey has been the site of more than 100 of these cases. At highest risk are patients in long-term acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that take care of people on ventilators. C. auris is concerning because it is resistant to many types of antifungal treatment. The CDC reports that 30 percent of patients who contract this fungal infection die.
Diagnosing C. Auris Infection
C. auris can be difficult to diagnose because people who are infected usually have other pre-existing illnesses and some laboratories are not equipped to identify this organism. The Englewood Health laboratory has the instrumentation to identify C. auris in blood or in specimens from sterile body sites. To date there have not been any C. auris infections identified by our laboratory.
Preventing Its Spread
To prevent the spread of C. auris, and to protect patients, healthcare workers would put the patient in a private room on Contact Precautions (wear gown and gloves) to assure that the fungus is not transmitted from person to person. Strict adherence to hand hygiene (washing with soap and water or the use of an alcohol-based hand rub) by healthcare personnel and visitors is critical for preventing spread. These fungi are considered remarkably stubborn and virulent because of how quickly they spread and cling to surfaces. Thorough cleaning of the patient’s surroundings (bedrails, curtains, telephones, sinks, etc.) is extremely important to containing the spread of this germ. Environmental Services workers will use the bleach disinfecting wipes to clean all surfaces and equipment. Upon discharge, EVS staff will use the UV light as an adjunct to terminal cleaning.
Cases of C. auris will be reported to the New Jersey Department of Health upon identification.