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Drug-resistant fungal infection outbreak in MA, four other states, CDC monitoring

A small outbreak in Massachusetts has doctors concerned and health officials want to keep it contained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring a serious new threat in the United States. It’s an infection called Candida Auris and it's concerning because of the properties of the organism.

“It's not a bacteria, it's not a virus,” Brigham and Women’s Hospital Doctor Paul Sax said. “It's a fungal infection that has caused very severe disease.”

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So far, five states have reported outbreaks, with around 50 people infected. And Massachusetts is one of them.

Doctor Sax is an infectious disease specialist at the Brigham. He says the infection is primarily considered a threat to hospitalized patients, especially if they are already very sick. 

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“They acquire it in the hospital. They are sick with other things. They may have diabetes. They may have other organ failures,” Sax explained.

By contrast, Sax says healthy people should have little problem fending off Candida Auris.

Although the outbreaks have not been large, nor geographically expansive, they are worrisome.

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The CDC says the organism can be difficult to spot using standard laboratory tests. And if it's not spotted, it can spread.

Containing the bug in the hospital setting is just half the battle.

Candida Auris is also proving difficult to treat.

“It's very resistant to our usual antifungal drugs. And this resistance is something that has to be overcome. We have to use special medicines for it,” said Dr. Sax. “We all need to be vigilant of these emerging infections, because they're very hard to treat and this one is actually hard to identify.”

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