Candida auris fungus poses minimal risk to healthy people, CNY medical expert says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of the antifungal-resistant Candida auris fungus spreading quickly throughout the country.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, director of global health and chair of microbiology and immunology at SUNY Upstate Medical University said the group of concern are people who are in the hospital for long periods of time.
"People who are in skilled nursing facilities, or long-term care facilities," Thomas said. "People that have compromised immune systems or people that you know end up being in the hospital for a long period of time and have tubes and lines and things like that as part of their treatment. Those are the people that we're really kind of concerned about."
The fungus can spread from person to person or through contaminated surfaces, like a blood pressure cuff at a hospital. It can also be lethal — killing 30 to 60% of people infected.
The CDC said the C. auris fungus is becoming a global health threat with concern about its resistance to antifungal medications.
"We still have a class of antifungal that we can use to treat patients," Thomas said. "We're always concerned that we'll lose all our tools."
But, Thomas said healthy people shouldn't be too concerned as the risk is low to have a problem.
"One of the best things that you can do to stay that way is to routinely wash your hands, and it seems like a simple thing, but a lot of people don't do it. It's a way. we get infected with lots of different things. Not just, you know, fungal infections like this"
Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said as of March 22 there have been 72 clinical cases in New York in 2023 in which patients have been infected with the fungus.
"Our best tool to address emerging public health threats is being able to identify them before they begin to rapidly spread," Hochul said in a release. "While the CDC report on this drug-resistant fungus is concerning, our ability to track these infections is nation-leading and continues to help us take the aggressive action needed to contain this threat and ensure our health care facilities are safe."
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald stressed that the fungus poses little risk to the general public.
"Candida auris typically infects people who are already sick, it is preventable by thorough hand washing and cleaned surfaces as well as personal protective equipment," McDonald said. "At Gov. Hochul's direction, the Department continues to work with health care facilities throughout New York State to identify potential cases and slow the spread of Candida auris."