WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care facilities across the country have been reporting that Candida Auris (C. Auris), a dangerous fungus, has been causing severe sickness in hospitalized patients.

Among the places where epidemiologists are tracking the fungus are D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Dr. Meghan Lyman, Medical Officer in the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the CDC, said Candida Auris typically is resistant to antifungal medications and it colonizes not only the G.I. tract but also the skin. That makes it likely that patients will shed it into the environment. It can stay on environmental surfaces for as long as a month.

Those facts, in addition to a few other things, make it easy for the fungus to spread, especially in health care settings. Some people might be infected but never develop infections; however, other people will develop them, making the fungus invasive, severe, and life-threatening, sometimes.

Most of the people who have been infected already were at a facility receiving some type of care. They usually are on ventilators and have central lines, feeding tubes, or urinary catheters. They often were exposed to antibiotics or antifungal medications and long or frequent stays at health care facilities.

“Generally, healthy people are at low risk for getting Candida Auris, and there’s no evidence that transmission is happening in the community. That doesn’t seem to be a concern and transmission is mainly occurring in healthcare settings,” said Lyman.

According to Lyman, there aren’t any signs or symptoms specific to Candida Auris, but the symptoms sometimes are similar to an infection caused by a bacteria or virus. The symptoms also depend on where in the body the infection is occurring.

“Candida Auris can cause invasive infections in the bloodstream or deep in the abdomen, and in those cases, it makes cause fever or sepsis, but it can also cause superficial infections like wound infections, so you might see some redness or swelling,” said Lyman.

The mortality rate for patients with Candida Auris is high, but health experts said it can be difficult to interpret because the patients who die already are so sick when they contract the fungus, that they might be dying from a variety of other conditions.

“So, those mortality rates are crude mortality rates, but it’s really difficult to determine what’s actually being caused by a C. Auris infection. And I think that’s a gap that we’re hoping to learn more about,” said Lyman.

Health experts said that in order to prevent or stop the spread, it’s important to identify cases early, whether that’s through clinical specimens or through colonization screening in which the skin is swabbed. Ensuring good communication and staying on top of ways to cut down the potential spread also are important.

“Especially things like hand hygiene, hand washing, isolation and PPE use, and environmental cleaning with an approved disinfectant. And these are all things that are recommended to be done in healthcare facilities,” said Lyman.