Described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a serious global health threat, a drug-resistant fungus is sickening hospitalized patients in a handful of states, and New Jersey is one of them.

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New Jersey has had 17 confirmed clinical cases of the potentially-fatal infection known as Candida auris, first identified in Japan in 2009.

"We are doing ongoing investigations at impacted health care facilities and we have done several site visits with impacted facilities," a spokesperson for the state Department of Health told New Jersey 101.5.

Risk factors of C. auris, the department said, include recent surgery, diabetes, previous antibiotic and antifungal use, and central venous catheter use.

It's caused infections of the bloodstream, wounds and ears, the CDC reports. Sixty percent of people with C. auris have died, according to the CDC. However, many of the victims also suffered from other serious illnesses.

According to the CDC, the harmful form of yeast has been difficult to identify without specialized laboratory methods. Conventional lab work could lead to misidentification and inappropriate treatment, making it difficult to control the spread of the fungus.

C. auris often does not respond to commonly-used antifungal drugs, but a certain class of drugs known as echinocandins has been known to treat the infections.

Shannon Davila, director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety with the New Jersey Hospital Association, said professionals in the healthcare community may refer to this fungus as a "superbug" because of its resistance to common treatment — similar to other organisms such as MRSA.

According to Davila, New Jersey hospitals are challenged with keeping up with drug-resistant infections, and many hospitals are looking to improve "antibiotic stewardship."

"Really looking at how we are identifying infections," Davila explained. "Are we prescribing antibiotics appropriately? Because one of the main reasons why we see antibiotic-resistant infections is overuse of antibiotics."

A map from the CDC, last updated in April, shows the fungus has hit six states. Nearly 40 cases were reported in New York.

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