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Federal health officials say 13 cases of a potentially deadly, drug-resistant fungal  infection have been reported  in the United States.  According to a report  released  Friday from the Centers  for Disease  Control and Prevention,  the  fungus has been  linked to the deaths of four hospital patients in the U.S.

According to the CDC, Candida auris fungal infection is emerging as a health threat worldwide, and it appears to spread in hospitals and other health care facilities.  The fungus preys on the sickest patients.  This fungus is relatively new on the world scene.  It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has since spread  around the globe, emerging in South America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Of the 13 U.S. cases reported between May 2013 and August 2016, seven are described in the CDC’s Nov. 4 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  The other six remain under investigation.  The seven cases described in the report occurred in four states:  Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. All of the patients had serious underlying medical conditions and had been hospitalized an average  of 18 days when diagnosed with C. auris infection.

The CDC said it’s unclear exactly how the patients were infected.  The fungus strains were related to ones found in South Asia and South America.  However, none of the patients had traveled to those regions and likely caught the infections here in the U.S.

In June, the CDC issued a clinical alert about the global emergence of C. auris.  It  requested that laboratories report cases and send patient samples to state and local health departments and the CDC.  CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release “We need to act now to better understand, contain and stop the spread of this drug-resistant fungus.  This is an emerging threat, and we need to protect vulnerable patients and others.”

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