Chicago Health Officials Tracking Potentially Deadly Fungus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm on a potentially deadly fungus that it says is an emerging health threat around the United States, particularly in the Chicago area.

Candida auris can cause different types of infections, some of which are drug-resistant. It’s particularly dangerous for patients with underlying health conditions. In February, a Crystal Lake woman infected with C. auris died while waiting for a lung transplant.

Dr. Allison Arwady, chief medical officer of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said her agency’s been concerned about the fungus for several years.

“The good news is that, at least here in Chicago, so far we have not seen Candida auris that is untreatable with antifungal medications, which was the big concern,” Arwady said. “Only about 15 percent of the Candida auris specimens that we’ve collected here in the Illinois area have been resistant to even one class of the antifungal medications, and none of them have been resistant to all of the classes.”

Arwady said it’s important for hospitals and other health care facilities to test patients for C. auris, especially because the fungus can live on someone’s skin without making the person sick. However, for most patients, she said C. auris shouldn’t be their biggest worry.

“This is just the newest version of a potentially drug-resistant pathogen, but we welcome attention and awareness that this continues to be a problem, and is [one of the reasons] we have to work on infection control,” Arwady said.

Arwady joins "Chicago Tonight" for a conversation.

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