Health Authorities on High Alert After Rare Superbug Found in Australia
A Victorian man has been diagnosed with an uncommon fungal superbug that can cause serious infections and possibly cause death.
Health authorities in Victoria said in an alert on Aug. 7 that they believe the man had likely contracted the fungus Candida auris, also known as C. auris, during admission to a hospital in the United Kingdom. This is the first known case of the infection in Victoria.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr. Brett Sutton, told the ABC that the man, who is in his 70s, had been colonized by the bug, but was not infected.
“At the moment we’re confident that because he’s been cared for in a single room, that the chances of an outbreak within our hospital systems is really very low,” he told the news broadcaster.
The fungus infection is considered a serious global health threat and has caused outbreaks in over 20 countries on four continents around the world, including the United States and England.
Health services and public health laboratories have embarked on a “search and destroy” mission to stop the spread of the disease and prevent an outbreak of the infection in the state.
Concerns and Prevention
Candida auris infection has been a public concern due to its increasing prominence overseas. It was first discovered in 2009 in Japan, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between June 30 and July 23 there were 340 confirmed cases of a Candida auris infection in the United States.
Health experts worldwide are worried about the spread of the disease due to its ability to often resist multiple anti-fungal medicines, making it challenging to treat.
The fungus can live on surfaces for months and can even colonize a patient’s skin for an extended period of time. Candida auris is also difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods, which can lead to misidentification and result in inappropriate management of the disease.
Outbreaks of candida auris often occur in health care settings, allowing it to spread readily in hospitals and nursing homes. It can spread by coming into contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment, or from person to person, according to the CDC.
Patients in contact with the fungus may experience bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections.
Sutton advised people that health authorities are taking all precautions and there was no need to panic.
“It’s a danger for people who are vulnerable, if they’ve got significant, pre-existing illness,” he told ABC. “But for fit and healthy people, for visitors to hospitals, they don’t need to worry about it.”
Victoria health has provided a number of good general hygiene practices for patients and their family members who recently visited a hospital:
– Always wash your hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before preparing and eating food, and before and after touching any wounds or medical devices that you may have.
– Use your own towels and face cloths. Do not share these items with other people.
– Cover any wounds with a bandage whenever possible.