Salem Patients First in State with Candida Auris

Three patients out of Salem have tested positive for Candida Auris, a serious fungal infection, according to a release from the Oregon Health Authority. These were the first cases of this infection in the state of Oregon.

OHA is investigating the recent outbreak following the first detected case at Salem Hospital on Dec. 11 in a patient who had recent international healthcare exposures, and confirmed positive diagnoses on Dec. 17.

OHA identified the two other cases in Salem in people who did not have international healthcare exposures, but had epidemiologic links to the first case, indicating healthcare-associated spread of Candida Auris to the second and third patients which were identified Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Candida Auris is an emerging type of fungus known to cause severe illness in hospitalized patients. In some patients, this yeast can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, causing serious invasive infections which are resistant to multiple antifungal treatments. This infection is hard to diagnose with standard laboratory methods and is often misidentified, leading to inappropriate management.

The Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the OHA Public Health Division is working with a regional public health laboratory in Seattle and Salem Hospital on the recent cases.

Jasmin Chaudhary, medical director of infection prevention at Salem Health, said that the health system is taking action on a number of fronts to reduce the likelihood of further spread in Salem. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in multi-drug resistant organisms around the world and nationwide,” she said, “and Salem is not immune.”

Some of the measures Salem Hospital is taking are working with the patients’ care teams to ensure frequent and effective disinfection of the environment; using transmission-based precautions for those infected, adhering to hand hygiene protocols; and conducting effective interfacility-transfer communication about a patient’s status when being transferred to another healthcare facility.

“Salem Health is working with OHA and the CDC to execute a rigorous plan, implementing aggressive eradication measures that have been shown in other hospitals to be successful in

eliminating Candida Auris,” said Chaudhary. “These include proactive steps that will assist in preemptively identifying new cases to prevent spread.”

Patients who test positive or had a high-risk exposure will be contacted by Salem Health. For more information, visit the CDC’s Candida auris website.

By Jennifer Williams