Deadly, Drug-Resistant Fungus Detected In New York, New Jersey

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- There's a new superbug on the rise across the country and the majority of cases are here in the New York and New Jersey area.

Candida Auris, or C. auris,  is most common in hospitals and nursing homes and is similar in profile to a yeast fungus.

In some cases, the fungus can enter the bloodstream and cause serious infections throughout the body. The most common symptoms are fever and chills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get serious C. auris infections are already sick from other medical conditions.

It has been particularly problematic because of its resistance to multiple antifungals, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"And it's particularly bad for vulnerable people who are immunosuppressed, it can be a very serious infection leading to death," Fauci said.

Half of all infected patients die, according to Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, board chairman of Health Watch USA

"Any of the outbreaks of these highly resistant drug organisms tend to be shielded in a wall of secrecy. If it's a cruise ship or a restaurant you'll hear about an outbreak the next day on the news," Kavanagh said. 

C. auris is present in 20 countries. Half of the roughly 600 U.S. cases have been in New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Jersey reported over 100.

After an infected patient at a Mount Sinai facility died last year, tests showed the fungus was everywhere in his room. The New York Times says the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it. 

Health officials say the exact risks of C. auris are unclear and disclosing outbreaks can cause unnecessary fear.