State and federal health officials are investigating ongoing outbreaks in Nevada hospitals and nursing homes of a drug-resistant “superbug” that can lead to serious illness and even death.
In mid-April, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services was investigating outbreaks of a fungus called Candida auris in acute care hospitals, long-term acute care hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities. , according to a technical bulletin sent by the state to health care providers.
The bulletin, which advises healthcare facilities to take special infection control and prevention precautions, does not say where the outbreaks occurred, how many patients were affected or whether any of the cases were fatal. However, some hospitals in southern Nevada have confirmed that they have identified recent cases.
Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, said the vast majority of cases analyzed by the lab came from southern Nevada. Several health facilities were affected, he said.
Candida auris, first identified in Japan in 2009, is a serious global health threat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Once rare, the infection has become more common and is often resistant to several drugs typically used to treat Candida infections. Some of its strains are resistant to all types of antifungals.
Genetically analyzed test samples at the state lab indicate that Nevada’s cases are mostly drug-responsive, Pandori said. The analysis also indicates that there have been multiple introductions of the fungus into the community, rather than spreading from a single source.
Pandori referred additional questions about the outbreaks to the state health department, which did not provide comment Tuesday evening.
A CDC representative said the federal agency is “supporting local health authorities in Nevada in response to an ongoing Candida auris outbreak at multiple health care facilities.”
“CDC experts are helping to identify additional cases, assess facility infection control practices, and ensure staff are educated about C. auris and its prevention strategies,” Rep. Belsie González said in a statement. an email.
“C. auris is an emerging, often multidrug-resistant, highly transmissible yeast that causes outbreaks in health care settings, often in long-term care facilities,” González said in the email. . auris can persist on patients and in the environment for weeks and can be spread among patients through contact with contaminated surfaces.
Some people carry the fungus on their skin without showing signs of infection, but with the potential to pass it on to others, according to the CDC’s website.
Hospitals confirm cases
University Medical Center, the county’s public hospital, said it identified a “cluster” of cases.
“Like other acute care hospitals in Las Vegas and across the country, UMC infectious disease specialists have identified a cluster of Candida auris and are expertly guiding our clinicians through infection control procedures. necessary to maintain the health and safety of our patients and caregivers,” Representative Danita Cohen said in an email.
Sunrise Health System “continues to work with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to understand and address this emerging disease in Las Vegas healthcare facilities,” said Representative Antonio Castelan. The Sunrise system includes MountainView, Southern Hills and Sunrise hospitals.
“We will continue to monitor and work with all agencies to keep our patients safe,” said Castelan, who said the Sunrise system is not releasing the number of cases it has identified.
St. Rose Dominican has identified one recent case at its three hospitals, Rep. Gordon Absher said. The patient was treated and left his Siena campus in mid-March.
“Our healthcare professionals remain in contact with local health authorities and the CDC and are ready to treat and manage any cases we may encounter,” Absher said in an email.
Valley Health System hospitals “are aware of the situation and are taking all necessary precautions,” said Rep. Gretchen Papez. She did not say whether her system — Centennial Hills, Desert Springs, Henderson, Spring Valley, Summerlin and Valley hospitals — had identified any cases.
COVID-19 linked to infections
C. auris can cause bloodstream infections and even death, especially in hospitalized and nursing home patients with serious medical conditions. According to the CDC, more than one in three patients die from an invasive C. auris infection, such as an infection affecting the blood, heart, or brain.
The most common symptoms of an invasive infection are fever and chills that do not improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection. A C. auris infection can be difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods, and it can be misidentified in labs without specific technology, according to the state bulletin.
In 2021, nearly 1,300 confirmed or probable cases of C. auris were reported, according to CDC data, with triple-digit cases in California, Florida, Illinois and New York. Nevada had only two reported cases last year.
The pandemic has fostered certain conditions that have made its spread more likely, with outbreaks occurring in COVID-19 units of acute care hospitals, the CDC said. These outbreaks may be linked to changes in routine infection control practices, including limited availability of gloves and gowns, reuse or prolonged use of these items, and changes in cleaning and disinfection practices. .