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Pilot project will monitor Yuma County wastewater for signs of C. auris

During the pandemic, wastewater monitoring was the proverbial canary on the coalmine for COVID-19.

Since then, experts have monitored wastewater to track COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syntactical virus in Yuma County, which during winter supplies the vast majority of the country’s leafy greens.

Now, the state health department and the University of Arizona's Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture are using it in a pilot program to track Candida auris, an elusive, drug-resistant disease that spreads in health care settings.

The yeast, which colonizes the body via the bloodstream, can cause serious and even deadly fungal infections.

Over the past three weeks, Arizona cases have risen from 37 to 50, approaching last year’s total of 53.

Nearly all cases have occurred in Maricopa County, with a few in Pima, Cochise and Mohave, and none so far in Yuma County.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.