In this space last weekend, the Mirror editorialized that it still is too early for people to let their guard down regarding COVID-19.

That editorial noted the existence of many unanswered questions regarding the origin of the coronavirus and troubling uncertainties about what might lie ahead, specifically ill effects from COVID-19 that might remain long into the future.

Unfortunately, now there is another serious scare evolving on the health front.

This new scare is not new; it’s been lingering predominantly below the public “radar” in this country since 2009, when it was discovered in the ear of a patient in Japan.

However, now that it is spreading across the United States in what federal researchers describe as “rapidly,” it is time — actually overdue — for this nation to pay close attention to developments, going forward.

The first documented case of this new potential widespread health scourge in the United States was in 2013 — having since been reported in at least 35 states and Washington, D.C. — but it is not confined to the U.S. It has spread to more than 40 countries.

In the United States, at least 2,377 people became infected in 2022, up from 53 in 2016.

That latest number does not seem to indicate a big problem for a country of 300 million people, but COVID-19 started small and ended up exacting a huge toll of death and suffering.

The new concern, what is being called Candida auris, which the Wall Street Journal, in last Tuesday’s edition, described as a “rare and often deadly fungus,” has been labeled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, as a growing threat to public health.

Candida auris has been described by the CDC as having a mortality rate of up to 60%, and that the fungus is particularly risky for seniors and people having compromised immune systems.

Last Tuesday’s Journal article said most Candida auris transmission — so far — has occurred in healthcare facilities that provide long-term care to very sick patients.

Some other information published in the Journal based on CDC information and a study published March 20 in the Annals of Internal Medicine:

— The common symptoms of Candida infection are fever and chills, the same symptoms of many other ailments.

— Common disinfectants including alcohol and bleach are not always effective against Candida auris. Deep cleaning and special disinfectants that destroy spores are needed to limit spread.

— Rising global temperatures might have encouraged Candida auris to develop more tolerance to heat; body temperatures have long served as an effective barrier against invasive fungal disease.

“If someone is found to have Candida auris on their skin, you need to isolate them to try to prevent new people from being colonized,” said Andrej Spec, an associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, a Detroit medical officer who said “this organism … it’s becoming smarter than we are,” indicated it’s necessary for all health care facilities to be aware of the threat.

According to a U.S. map accompanying the Journal article, Pennsylvania is among the states with the lowest number of cumulative clinical cases between 2013 and 2022. However, the Keystone State touches New York, one of the states with the most recorded cases.

All considered, looking ahead, medical researchers are faced with a major challenge.



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