A dangerous fungal infection that the CDC has warned is spreading at an ‘alarming rate’ nationwide continues to proliferate in New York and New Jersey, with cases in both states to set new records in 2023 , according to the data.
It is caused by Candida auris, a form of yeast that is generally not harmful to healthy people, but can pose a life-threatening infection threat to immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable populations. It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream. Some strains are called superbugs, which do not respond to any available antibiotics.
The CDC describes it as an “emerging” fungus that “poses a serious threat to global health” for three main reasons: Candida auris is often multidrug-resistant (some strains do not respond to any of the three antifungal drugs available); it is easily misidentified in laboratories without specific technology, which could harm public health management; and it has caused outbreaks in healthcare facilities, which are of particular concern given their most-at-risk populations.
While the number of US cases of Candida auris tripled between 2020 and 2022, few states have seen such rampant spread as New York, where a 2013 case was retroactively identified as the first in the US, and the New Jersey.
The two states accounted for nearly one-fifth of all candida auris cases in the United States last year, according to CDC data. Federal data only covers the period ending December 31, 2022, so there is no comparative benchmark for 2023 yet.
That said, New York is striving to break the 2022 decade record of 379 clinical cases in one year. The Big Apple’s 105 clinical cases confirmed as of April 21, 2023 represent 28% of last year’s total – with seven months remaining in 2023. A March 22 update counted 72 clinical cases, so the new data marks a 46% increase in cases over the past month.
Candida Auris Cases in New York by Year
Most cases have been found in facilities in the New York area, although some are from outside the metropolitan area.
|Year||Number of clinical cases||Number of surveillance cases|
Trends in Candida Auris cases in New Jersey
New Jersey has already exceeded the 2022 total provided by the CDC, which is three times lower than the state’s own data. Using data from the New Jersey Department of Health, the current 127 Candida auris cases for this year (as of April 1) represent 34% of last year’s total. Once again, there are still many years to go. And recent trends indicate that cases will continue to rise.
Both states have seen their numbers increase dramatically in recent years, and CDC researchers say the COVID-19 pandemic is likely at least partly to blame. Hospital workers have been strained by COVID patients, and it likely diverted their attention from disinfecting other types of germs, they said.
Candida auris was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been seen in more and more countries. Many of the first US cases came from abroad, but most cases have now spread within the country, officials say.
The fungus can survive on surfaces in healthcare facilities, where it can spread between patients. Doctors have also detected it on the skin of thousands of other patients, making it a transmission risk. People with multiple comorbidities who need a machine to breathe are at increased risk if they catch the infection, health officials say.
Learn more about New York’s response here, and get CDC information for patients and family members, plus tips on prevention, symptoms to look for, and more, here. Information on Candida auris from New Jersey can be found here.