Hospital infections from ‘superbug’ hit new high in January; Sunrise Hospital cases up again – KLAS – 8 News Now

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A “superbug” that causes serious infections continues to spread in Las Vegas hospitals and health care facilities, reaching its highest levels in January.

A total of 202 cases of the candida auris fungus — C. auris — were reported in Nevada in January, with 69 “clinical” cases involving infections. It’s the highest number of cases since the fungus was first found at a Nevada care facility in August of 2021. State health officials reported data from January is still incomplete, and more cases could be added.

Cases are either clinical, which involves a diagnosed infection, or “colonization,” which means the fungus was found on the patient’s body but there was no infection.

C. auris is considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be one of five “superbugs” that pose urgent threats. Superbugs are strains of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are resistant to most antibiotics and medications used to treat infections.

(Graphic: Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health)

8 News Now reported in November when C. auris hit its previous peak during the month of October. Since then, cases in Southern Nevada dropped in November and December before rising to new highs in January. A total of 550 new cases have been reported since the end of October — a 24.1% increase in just three months. Reports of colonization cases grew faster, at 27.5% compared to 19.0% growth in clinical cases. Those numbers could go up as the state takes in more reports from the end of January. February cases were excluded from these counts.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center remains at the top of the list of Southern Nevada’s health care facilities, reporting 713 total cases since 2021 — more than double the count at Valley Hospital Medical Center, which ranked second with 316 cases. Kindred Hospital Flamingo in Las Vegas, a long-term acute care facility, ranked third with 227 cases. Here’s the complete list from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH).

The state stopped releasing information about deaths tied to C. auris late last year. “It is extremely difficult to determine whether deaths among such patients are attributable only to C. auris and not due to a pre-existing condition,” according to a DPBH statement. 8 News Now spoke to an infectious diseases expert who said 20% to 40% of deaths involving people with a “deep” candida infection were likely caused by the fungal infection. See that interview here.

C. auris cases at Sunrise Hospital previously tilted heavily to clinical cases, suggesting that infections were more common than colonization cases. But that can be a matter of when doctors order screening for the fungus. In the latest update, colonization cases increased faster — 157 colonization cases compared to 60 clinical cases over the past three months. That suggests screenings have become more frequent as the hospital tries to control the spread among patients and employees. The recent colonization cases at Sunrise accounted for about 39% of all colonization cases reported in the past three months.

In December of 2022, Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, who has been at the forefront of research about C. auris, told 8 News Now that people shouldn’t live in fear of the fungus. And he emphasized that they should not avoid going to the hospital.

He explained that C. auris can survive on surfaces for up to two weeks, creating an opportunity to spread in hospitals. The fungus is commonly present on human skin, he said.

“When patients are in hospitals, what they do, they put catheters in them. And because of this, these bugs — or these germs — stick to the catheter. They make biofilm, which is like sticky material where it protects the germs,” Ghannoum said. “And this way, you cannot get rid of them.”

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