DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines hospitals are on the lookout for a potentially deadly fungus that is spreading across the nation.

The fungus is a type of yeast called Candida auris. It can cause severe illness or even death in people with a weakened immune system. The fungus is also drug resistant.

UnityPoint Health Des Moines says it has not seen any cases, but it does screen regularly for it. UnityPoint has protocols in place if a case is detected.

According to the CDC, Iowa has at least one screening case of C. auris. That means swabs have been collected from a patient to determine if they are carrying the organism on their body, without signs of an active infection.

C. auris can be spread by touch or in the environment so cleaning surfaces, wearing gowns and gloves in a room, and good hand hygiene slows the spread.

The Manager of Infection and Prevention at UnityPoint Health, Nancy Wilde, says education about the fungus is important. “I think knowing that we’re aware of it, that we’re watching for it, that we have processes in place is good. Do I want them to worry about it? No. But, it’s always good to talk to your healthcare provider if you have a specific concern,” said Wilde.

She says good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of C. auris and infections in general and that hand sanitizers are very effective and easy to use.