San Diego

‘Rapidly Spreading' Fungus on CDC's Radar Has Been Reported in San Diego County

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A potentially deadly fungus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is spreading at an alarming rate across the nation has been reported in San Diego, and local healthcare providers are on alert.

The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, or C. auris, is drug-resistant and can cause severe illness in people with weakened immune systems. 

There have been 20 cases in San Diego County since January, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. If that pace continues, it'll eclipse the 60 cases reported last year. While the fungus has been spreading mostly in hospitals, experts here have thoughts about the potentially deadly fungus moving into your home.

The fungus, called Candida auris, was first reported in the United States in 2016.

Dr. John Bradley, director of infectious diseases at Rady's Children's Hospital, said it could be brought into your home contact by anyone who's had contact with an infected person.

"The yeast goes into the mucus membranes or the skin, in areas of your body that don't have good ventilation," Brady told a group of reporters at a news conference Wednesday. "It's a big concern and we're taking it very seriously."

You shouldn't be worried about the fungus if you're healthy because you're immune system will naturally fight it, according to Dr. Bradley, but there's a caveat.

"It acquired an ability to be resistant to most of the available anti-fungal medications, therefore, treating such infections caused by Candida auris outbreaks suddenly becomes very challenging and people can have a high mortality rate," said Hai Shao, M.D., a doctor at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

Again, people with weakened immune systems, like hospital patients in cancer wards or patients on antibiotic regimens, are of chief concern.

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"What this warning shares with healthcare institutes is if you've got this in your institution, don't just use standard treatment you've been doing the past 5 to 10 years. You've got to up the ante," Dr. Bradley said.

"If you share a Coke with someone in your family, they'll pick it up too," Dr. Bradley said.

Symptoms include fever or inflammation of infected areas. Candida auris is spread through contact with an infected person who may be moving from hospital to hospital or by touching an infected surface.

Doctors say one of the best things you can do to slow the spread is wash your hands.

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