Deadly Candida Auris Fungus Invades Chicago Nursing Homes

Senior in wheelchair in nursing home
A senior sitting in a wheelchair

Nursing homes and health care facilities in Chicago and throughout the state have seen a wave of Candida Auris cases. As of January 31, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the state has 296 confirmed clinical cases and 4 probable clinical cases. Often affected by underlying medical problems or weakened immune systems, Candida Auris poses a significant risk to nursing home residents for serious illness or death.

What is Candida Auris?

A type of yeast, Candida Auris may cause serious infections. Able to spread through contact with a contaminated surface or object, as well as through contact with affected residents, staff, or family members, C. Auris outbreaks may occur in nursing homes and other health care facilities. In some cases, patients may not suffer infections due to Candida Auris. However, the potentially deadly fungus may colonize on their skin, which may allow them to spread it to others or to contract C. Auris infections themselves.

What Types of Infections Can C. Auris Cause?

Candida Auris may cause serious invasive infections, which may have severe or fatal effects on nursing home residents. Residents may develop wound infections should this type of yeast come into contact with open sores, or they may contract bloodstream infections if C. Auris enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout their bodies. Over one out of every three cases of Candida Auris infections affecting the blood, heart, or brain result in death. C. Auris may also cause ear infections.

What are the Symptoms of C. Auris Infections?

The symptoms residents may experience as a result of Candida Auris infections depends largely on the type of infection and the area of the body affected. Often those who suffer infections as a result of coming into contact with this fungus experience persistent fever and chills, as well as general malaise. If already suffering from another illness or medical condition, nursing home residents may not recognize the symptoms of C. Auris infections.

How are Candida Auris Infections Treated?

Treatment of Candida Auris infections involves the administration of antifungal medications. While some respond to this treatment, the drugs commonly used to treat Candida-involved infections are not effective for C. Auris infections. Additionally, the identification of this fungus requires the use of specialized laboratory technology, which may lead to misidentifications and patients receiving the wrong treatment.