Deadly superbug cases confirmed in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Two cases of a potentially deadly fungal infection resistant to drugs have been documented in Oklahoma in the last two years.

"Yeast can cause infection in a number of different body sites," said Dr. David Chansolme, medical director of Infection Prevention for Integris Health.

That's the fear with Candida auris, a fungus that can be very dangerous.

"If they get a yeast infection, particularly in their bloodstream, it can be fatal," Chansolme said.

The particular strain of yeast is known as a "superbug" because it's resistant to all three types of anti-fungal drugs typically used.

"It's not necessarily that the superbugs are more likely to cause disease; it's just that, in certain patients, when they do cause disease, they are more difficult to get rid of because we have fewer weapons to fight them," Chansolme said.

Candida auris was first identified in 2009 in Japan and, while more prevalent overseas, 600 plus cases have been documented in the US.

Recently, the CDC released information that two cases of the deadly fungus had been identified and treated right here in Oklahoma, one in southeast Oklahoma in 2018 and one at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City in 2017. Officials from OU and the CDC confirm the case was identified, isolated and treated.

A statement from officials in Atlanta read:

"The work in Oklahoma was deemed successful because CDC did not find further evidence of transmission.”

But, why is the information just now being release to the public?

"In both occurrences, there was no risk of further transmission to any other patients that were identified," said Laurence Burnsed of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The OSDH was involved in both Candida auris cases. They said they helped to identify the pathogen and communicate the finding to other health facilities. But, as far as releasing information on a "superbug" to the public, they have to worry about the privacy of the patient.

"If it seems like a very limited to an isolated incident with an individual where exposure likely occurred from a prior exposure at a another facility, another location, that’s where the communication with the general public might be limited. We do try to strike a good balance with inform the public of specific risks when they are occurring but, at the same time, protecting the individuals confidentiality when they are involved in public health investigations," Burnsed said.

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