LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center has more reports of infections involving the Candida auris, or C. auris, fungus than any other health care facility in Nevada over the past two years, according to information provided by the state.

Since 8 News Now reported on Nevada case numbers at the end of November, they have grown from 774 to 1,129 — an increase of 355 cases in less than four months, or nearly 46%.

A CDC report this week indicates the fungus has spread to 28 states, and no state has been hit harder than Nevada. A total of 384 cases by the end of 2022 at Nevada facilities accounts for 16% of the cases nationwide.

New information obtained by 8 News Now gives a deeper look into the numbers of cases reported at acute care hospitals, rehab hospitals and other care facilities from 2021 to 2023 — now totaling 1,129 cases, or about 14% of the 8,000 cases reported nationwide. The new numbers are from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

The CDC has identified C. auris as “an urgent antimicrobial resistance threat” — a “superbug” — that evades treatment using anti-fungal drugs, making it difficult to treat infections. It has been a problem for treatments involving catheters because the fungus can cling to surfaces and be introduced into the human body. When that happens C. auris can spread and “colonize” the body.

Cases have gone over 100 at five care facilities in the valley.

Those include Sunrise Hospital (192), where there have been 70 new cases since the end of November, and Kindred Hospital Flamingo - Las Vegas (136), a long-term acute care hospital near Flamingo Road and Eastern Avenue where 64 new cases have occurred since November. Valley Hospital (112) has had 52 cases since November.

Sunrise Hospital provided this statement:

“Candida Auris (C. auris) continues to spread throughout our community resulting in an increase in patient colonization and infection throughout the healthcare setting. This is not unique to Sunrise Hospital. With a focus on heightened surveillance testing, we continue to identify patients upon admission. As the largest acute-care facility in the state of Nevada, our patient population consist of those who are most susceptible to C. auris – the critically ill, immunocompromised and presenting from long-term care facilities. We continue to practice targeted testing, enhanced isolation, high-level cleaning practices and advanced infection prevention technologies to keep our patients, colleagues and visitors safe.”

Dr. Steven Merta, Chief Medical Officer, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center

Two locations for Horizon Specialty Hospital, one in Las Vegas and one in Henderson, each have just over 100 cases.

Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health report also shows that colonization has been a bigger problem in long-term facilities than it has been at Sunrise. A majority of cases at Sunrise are clinical cases, while long-term facilities have had the majority of cases involving colonization. And almost all of the cases classified as Skilled Nursing Facilities have involved colonization.

Colonization cases outnumber clinical cases at five hospitals including Summerlin Hospital, Valley Hospital Medical Center, Henderson Hospital, Spring Valley Hospital, Desert Springs and Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center, but the total cases at those facilities are not as high as at Sunrise.

Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum has been researching fungus in the human body for decades, and he's playing a central role in the fight against C. auris, a fungus that has caused infections in hospital patients. (Greg Haas / 8NewsNow)

Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, who has been at the forefront of research about C. auris, said during a Las Vegas visit in December that people shouldn't live in fear of the fungus. And he emphasized that they should not avoid going to the hospital. He explained how colonization happens.

“When patients are in hospitals, what they do, they put catheters in them. And because of this, these bugs — or these germs — stick to the catheter. They make biofilm, which is like sticky material where it protects the germs,” Ghannoum said. “And this way, you cannot get rid of them,” Ghannoum said. Invasive procedures that can spread the fungus aren't limited to the use of catheters.

He said C. auris is commonly present on human skin. Simple steps like thoroughly washing your hands goes a long way toward preventing the spread of fungus, Ghannoum said. Hospitals follow strict disinfectant procedures in patient treatment.