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SAN DIEGO — A deadly fungal infection that is being warned about by the Centers for Disease Control for its “dramatic” increase in cases has already been in the San Diego area for several years, local health officials said.

Since 2020, 92 cases of Candida auris, a type of yeast that can cause severe illness in hospitalized patients, have been reported in San Diego County, Tim McClain, a spokesman with the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, told FOX 5 Thursday.

Three cases of C. auris were reported in 2020, nine in 2021, 60 in 2022 and 20 thus far in 2023, McClain confirmed. At the current rate, the fungal infection will exceed the total cases in 2022.

C. auris primarily affects older people and those with weakened immune systems, rejects treatments from traditional antifungal medications and has a mortality rate of up to 60%, per the CDC.

“Candida auris spreads like most fungal infections through direct contact not through the air, but can spread on skin or infected clothing or sometimes other kinds of objects that can survive the kinds of cleaning agents what would usually work against its relatives,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser with the San Diego County Health Department. 

While the spread of C. auris is far easier to contain than something like COVID-19 for those who are vulnerable, county health officials say extreme caution is the only way forward.  

“Somewhere between 30 and 60% of people who get Candida Auris will die, either directly from the infection or from other complications,” Dr. Kaiser said.

According to doctors, containing the fungal infections will be a top priority, and they do have new cleaning agents ready to knock out C. auris when it shows up.

“We don’t know where candida auris came from, but taking antibiotics and antifungals improperly has caused other kinds of resistant infections and we certainly don’t need anymore of those,” Dr. Kaiser said. 

FOX 5’s Jaime Chambers contributed to this story.