Q: What is Candida auris?
A: Candida auris is a fungus that, when it gets into the bloodstream, can cause dangerous infections that can be life-threatening. Scientists first identified it in 2009 in a patient in Japan. In recent years, it has emerged around the world — including in the United States — largely in hospitals and nursing homes.
Q: Why is it so dangerous?
A: C. auris is often resistant to major antifungal drugs that are typically used to treat such infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one such drug, while 30 percent are resistant to two or more major drugs. Once the germ is present, it is hard to eradicate from a facility.
Q: Who is at risk?
A: People with compromised or weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable. This includes elderly people and people who are already sick; in at least one case, newborns were infected at a neonatal unit.
Q: Why haven’t people heard about this?
A: The rise of C. auris has been little publicized in part because it is so new. But also, outbreaks have at times been played down or kept confidential by hospitals, doctors, even governments. Some hospitals and medical professionals argue that because precautions are taken to prevent the spread, publicizing an outbreak would scare people unnecessarily.
Q: Can I do anything to protect myself?
A: The symptoms of C. auris — fever, aches, fatigue — are not unusual, so it is hard to recognize the infection without testing. The good news is that the threat of becoming sick with C. auris is very low for healthy people going about their daily lives. If you or a loved one is in a hospital or nursing home, you can ask if there have been cases of Candida auris there. If so, it is reasonable to request that proper infection-control precautions are taken.
New York Times