No new cases of rare fungal superbacteria reported at the Oregon hospital

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After three cases at Salem Health last month, there were no more traces of a dangerous fungal infection, Oregon Health Authority officials said Thursday.

Three patients at Salem Hospital contracted Candida auris, a type of yeast rare in the United States, during a first-ever outbreak in Oregon in December.

The first case was discovered on December 11th at Salem Health and confirmed on December 17th in a person who, according to health officials, had “recent international health exposures”.

Two inpatients then fell ill with the infection on December 23 and 27.

Officials with the OHA Public Health Division’s Healthcare-Associated Infections Program say surveillance tests for Candida auris have so far been negative in patients moved from affected departments of Salem Hospital to other health facilities – mostly long-term care, the reported Oregon Health Authority in a press release Thursday.

The last round of broad, device-based tests in the hospital revealed no new cases of infection.

“We are pleased to announce that the total number of patients diagnosed with Candida auris is three as of January 4th,” Dat Tran, MD, medical director of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program, said in a statement.

Staff on the program continue to work with Salem Health and the regional Public Health Laboratory and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct additional surveillance tests at Salem Hospital to “increase assurance that no further transmission has occurred,” said Tran.

Salem Health and OHA are working to notify health facilities that have received transfer patients from affected Salem Health units. It was not immediately clear which units at Salem Health were affected by the outbreak.

The fungus, also called C. aris, can cause infections in wounds or bloodstream and is most dangerous to hospital or nursing home patients who have serious illnesses, have weakened immune systems, or according to OHA and the Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases.

The risk of infection for otherwise healthy people is “extremely low”.

As of 2013, approximately 1,150 clinical cases of Candida auris have been identified in the United States. The CDC describes it as a “serious global health threat”.

OHA, CDC and Salem Health are developing and implementing a plan to stop the spread of Candida auris in the hospital, said Jasmin Chaudhary, medical director for infection prevention at Salem Health.

Measures implemented include: ensuring frequent disinfection of the patient health care environment; Applying transmission-based precautions for those infected or colonized with Candida auris; and compliance with hand washing protocols.

Statesman Journal reporter Connor Radnovich contributed to this story.

Virginia Barreda is the breaking news and public safety reporter for the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at 503-399-6657 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter below @ vbarreda2.



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