Officials probe 4 potential C. auris deaths in Mississippi

Health officials in Mississippi are continuing to watch the growing number of cases of Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungal infection, which is now believed to be the cause of four deaths in the state, according to a Feb. 20 report from Mississippi Today.

What began as an outbreak in November 2022 has grown to more than 12 cases, according to the report. The state health department has also identified at least 53 colonized people, meaning they are carrying the fungus but haven't become ill. A Jan. 11 memo from Paul Byers, MD, epidemiologist for the Mississippi State Department of Health, said the department had identified six cases and 37 colonized patients. The infection has a known mortality rate of about 1 in 3, Mississippi Today reports, and cases are still on the rise. 

"This is a rapidly expanding and serious situation; additional cases of invasive infection and colonization may be identified," the memo reads. "MSDH continues to work with impacted facilities to provide infection control guidance and support surveillance and contact screening."

The center of the outbreak is a long-term acute care facility. Some infected patients from the facility also received care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, according to Mississippi Today.

Although cases of C. auris are still rare in the U.S., the fungal infection is known to resist drug treatments and spread rapidly in healthcare facilities, particularly among individuals who are already sick from other conditions, according to the CDC.

For now, the Mississippi State Department of Health is asking healthcare providers to accept patients with C. auris for admission into their facilities and ensure proper infection control protocols, inform all necessary parties of the patient's infection status — especially if transfer is needed — and report all cases to the state department of health as soon as possible.

However, the MDSH also notes that providers' "decisions to discharge or admit patients from one level of care to another should be based on clinical criteria and the ability of the accepting facility to provide care, not on the presence or absence of C. auris infection or colonization."

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