Illinois one of the leading locations for drug-resistant fungal yeast disease

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Most cases are in the Chicago area, though three have been reported ‘near St. Louis’

Frightening news reports about the dreaded fungal yeast disease Candida auris say Illinois is one of the leading locations for the rapidly spreading and potentially deadly disease.

Health officials reported that almost all of those Illinois cases are in the Chicago area – 95 in the city, 56 in suburban Cook County and seven in the collar counties, in one count. Three, however, were reported to be “near St. Louis,” indicating that the southern Illinois region is not immune.

It didn’t happen all at once – the cases were reported over the past three years.

Illinois is second highest behind New York, and Illinois accounts for about a quarter of the cases nationwide. The disease tends to occur in health care settings, and hand washing is recommended to reduce its spread.

It resists some common antifungal drugs and is known to cause bloodstream, wound and ear infections. After a patient has been treated or has died, it requires a major cleanup effort to make the hospital room safe again.

HIDDEN OUTBREAK
The New York Times said hospitals and local governments have been reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of sparking panic. The Centers for Disease Control is not allowed to give the names of hospitals involved. Health officials do say most of the cases in Illinois have responded to treatment.

The Times said the first case was reported in 2009 in Japan and it has since been seen in Colombia, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

“Unlike garden-variety yeast infections, this one causes serious bloodstream infections, spreads easily from person-to-person in health-care settings and survives for months on skin and for weeks on bed rails, chairs and other hospital equipment,” The Times reported. “Some strains are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs. Those at greatest risk are individuals who have been in intensive care for a long time or who are on ventilators or have central line catheters inserted into a large vein.”

WHAT IS CANDIDA AURIS?
A type of yeast, Candida auris can severely sicken and sometimes kill patients if it enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. In addition to bloodstream infections, Candida auris can also infect the ears and wounds. The rare fungus was discovered in 2009.

As of March 29, the U.S. had recorded 617 cases in 12 states, according to the CDC. Another 1,056 patients were found to be carrying the fungus without signs of infection, the CDC said.

  • Why is it hard to treat?
    Candida auris often doesn’t respond to common antifungal drugs. It is difficult to identify in lab tests and can afflict people who are already sick, so it is also frequently misdiagnosed.
  • What are the symptoms?
    The most common symptoms of Candida auris are fever and chills that don’t subside after being treated with antibiotics for a suspected bacterial infection.
  • Who is at risk?
    According to the CDC, people most at risk of contracting Candida auris include patients who have endured long hospital stays, people with compromised immune systems, those who have a central venous line or other tubes in their bodies, and people who have previously received antibiotics for antifungal infections.

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