JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The first cases of a highly contagious, antibiotic-resistant fungal infection have been reported in Mississippi.

Leaders with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) said the source of candida auris, also called C. auris, in Mississippi is being investigated by state health experts.

The infection primarily affects people already being treated for multiple serious or chronic health conditions, often spreading in a hospital or long-term care facility. C. auris is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, and some strains are resistant to all three available classes of antifungals.

Experts said C. auris is easily transmissible, both on surfaces and person-to-person, and especially in congregate settings such as long-term care facilities. It can even be carried on someone’s skin without causing that person to be infected or have symptoms, but still allowing the spread to others.

“The public needs to be aware that we are seeing this fungus. This is the first time we’ve had a locally acquired case in Mississippi,” said Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele, an associate professor in the UMMC Division of Infectious Diseases.

The ongoing outbreak in central Mississippi “is a serious and developing situation,” the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) said in a December 23, 2022, advisory to health care providers through its MS Health Alert Network, or HAN.

The fungus in Mississippi is believed to have been locally acquired at a specific long-term, acute care facility. MSDH didn’t identify the facility in its advisory, but officials said the investigation is ongoing and could involve additional facilities.

As of December 23, MSDH officials said three cases of the infection, including two deaths, and at least 19 cases of C. auris colonization, had been identified among residents of the unnamed facility.

UMMC has also treated seven patients with forms of C. auris. Of the seven, two were infected, two were colonized and three high-risk patients had been exposed. One of the infected patients died, and one has been discharged. One of the colonized patients has been discharged, and two of the high-risk patients who were exposed have been discharged.