March 3, 2024

Washington health officials investigate first case of drug-resistant fungus in Pierce County man

Washington health officials said they were investigating the first case of Candida auris, or C. auris, diagnosed in the state.

A Pierce County man was diagnosed with colonization due to the multidrug-resistant fungus on July 13.

The man tested positive at Kindred Hospital Seattle-First Hill during admission screening.

Before that, he was a patient at St. John’s Medical Center. Joseph in Tacoma for about six weeks.

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Candida auris is a yeast responsible for many infections. Resistant to most antifungal drugs, this fungus causes deaths worldwide. (BSIP/Educational Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

He suffers from multiple co-morbidities and has not traveled out of state recently.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said this is believed to be the first locally acquired case in Washington.

The Washington State Department of Health issued a health alert about the situation on Tuesday.

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

A man's hands hold a petri dish containing the yeast candida auris

The director of the National Reference Center for Invasive Fungus Infections, Oliver Kurzai, holds in his hands a petri dish containing the yeast candida auris in a laboratory of the University of Wuerzburg in Wuerzburg, Germany, on January 23, 2018. (Photo by Nicolas Armer / image alliance via Getty Images)

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The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is working with the State Health Department, Seattle-King County Public Health, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and Kindred Hospitals to investigate.

“We will offer testing to other patients who may have been exposed. This patient will remain isolated while he continues to receive care,” he said in a release on Tuesday.

C. auris is a type of yeast that can cause serious illness, especially in those suffering from serious medical conditions who have spent time in hospitals.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Colonized patients can carry and spread C. auris even if they are not sick.

From 2013 to last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5,654 C. auris infections nationwide, including in western states.

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The agency says the risk of C. auris infection to otherwise healthy people, including health care personnel, is extremely low.

The fungus can cause serious infections in the blood and wounds. More than one in three patients with C. auris infection die.

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