Three cases of Candida auris, an often misidentified, serious fungal infection that is typically resistant to anti-fungal medicines, was detected in patients at Salem Hospital in December, the Oregon Health Authority said Tuesday.
Candida auris is a type of yeast that can cause severe illness, like bloodstream and wound infections, particularly for people with serious medical conditions in hospitals and nursing homes. According to the CDC, patients who are at the highest risk of infection have been hospitalized for long periods of time, have a catheter or other tubes entering their body or have weakened immune systems. The risk of Candida auris infection to otherwise healthy people, including health care workers, is extremely low.
The first Salem case was found Dec. 11 and confirmed a week later in a patient who had recent international health care exposures. Candida auris has only recently appeared in the United States, the Oregon Health Authority said.
The other two cases did not have international healthcare exposures but had epidemiologic links to the first case, meaning Candida auris was spread in the healthcare environment sometime over two weeks in December.
“Fortunately, the organism we’re dealing with in this outbreak appears to respond to existing treatments,” said Rebecca Pierce, manager of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program. “Nonetheless, it’s critical that we prevent the spread of the infection.”
Since 2013, more than 1,150 clinical cases of Candida auris have been identified in the United States. No cases of the fungus identified in Oregon until now, according to the state’s health authority.
Patients who test positive or had a high-risk exposure will be contacted by officials from Salem Health, the regional healthcare system.