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We are investigating first case of Candida auris diagnosed in Washington

A Pierce County man was diagnosed July 13 with colonization due to Candida auris (C. auris), a multidrug-resistant fungus that can cause serious infections. This is believed to be the first locally acquired case in Washington.

C. auris is a type of yeast that can cause severe illness, especially in those suffering from serious medical conditions who have spent time in hospitals—particularly ICUs—and nursing homes. Patients who are colonized can carry and spread C. auris even if it’s not making them sick.

The man tested positive at Kindred Hospital Seattle–First Hill during an admission screening, which is a standard of care at the hospital. Before that, he was a patient at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma for about 6 weeks. He suffers from multiple comorbidities and has not recently traveled out of state.

From 2013 through 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 5,654 infections of C. auris across the United States, including cases in Oregon, California and other Western states.

“Screening for contagious diseases helps healthcare and public health find infections early to help limit spread. It is a critical step to protect the public,” said Nigel Turner, Division Director for Communicable Disease Control. “We prepare for this and other diseases to make sure we and our healthcare partners can respond quickly and effectively.”

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a health alert about this case on Tuesday, July 18. We are working with DOH, Public Health Seattle-King County, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, and Kindred Hospitals to investigate. We will provide testing for other patients who may have been exposed. This patient will remain isolated while he continues to receive care.

CDC says people most at risk are patients who:

  • Already have many medical problems.
  • Have had frequent hospital stays or live in nursing homes.
  • Have a central venous catheter or other lines or tubes entering their body.
  • Have weakened immune systems.

CDC says the risk of C. auris infection to otherwise healthy people, including healthcare personnel, is extremely low.

The fungus can cause serious infections in blood and wounds. More than 1 in 3 patients with C. auris infection dies.

CDC considers C. auris an emerging pathogen because of increasing numbers of infections in multiple countries since it was first identified in 2009 in Japan.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of 321 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at tpchd.org.

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