First case of deadly fungus diagnosed in Washington

Jul 21, 2023, 10:37 AM | Updated: Jul 22, 2023, 10:11 am

c. auris deadly fungus...

The director of the National Reference Centre for Invasive Fungus Infections, Oliver Kurzai, holding in his hands a petri dish holding the yeast candida auris in a laboratory. (Photo by Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images)

(Photo by Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A Pierce County man was diagnosed July 13 with colonization due to Candida auris (C. auris), a multidrug-resistant fungus that can cause serious infections — the first locally acquired case in Washington.

While an infection is the replication of an organism in host tissue that can cause diseases, colonization is the presence of a microorganism within a host. The microorganism can multiply and grow within the host, but without any interaction between the host and the organism.

More on C. auris: Deadly fungus spreading in U.S. with approximately 60% mortality

Approximately every 1 in 3 patients with a C. auris infection dies, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

“C. auris is a type of yeast that can cause severe illness, especially in those suffering from serious medical conditions who have spent time in hospitals — particularly ICUs — and nursing homes,” Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wrote in a public announcement. “Patients who are colonized can carry and spread C. auris even if it’s not making them sick.”

The man was a patient at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma for approximately six weeks before going to Kindred Hospital Seattle – First Hill, when he tested positive during an admission screening.

From 2013 through 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 5,654 infections of C. auris across the U.S., including cases in Oregon, California, and other Western states.

“Screening for contagious diseases helps healthcare and public health find infections early to help limit spread,” Nigel Turner, Division Director for Communicable Disease Control, said in a prepared statement. “It is a critical step to protect the public. We prepare for this and other diseases to make sure we and our healthcare partners can respond quickly and effectively.”

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a health alert July 18.

More on WA DOH: Washington DOH announces end of free at-home COVID-19 testing

“Based on known details, we believe that this case of C. auris was acquired in Washington,” DOH wrote in a public address. “WA DOH and partner local health jurisdictions are working with involved facilities to assess and optimize infection prevention practices and to perform screening of other patients to identify if transmission has occurred. Public Health is making this announcement to strongly encourage all healthcare facilities to optimize infection prevention practices and to prepare for safely admitting and caring for patients who are infected or colonized with C. auris.”

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First case of deadly fungus diagnosed in Washington