Oregon health officials investigate state's 1st Candida auris outbreak

Candida auris, a deadly, drug-resistant fungus, has been detected in three Salem (Ore.) Health patients, marking the state's first cases of the infection. 

The first case at Salem Hospital was identified Dec. 11 in a patient who had "recent international healthcare exposures, and confirmed Dec. 17," the Oregon Health Authority said in a Dec. 28 news release. The other two cases weren't tied to international healthcare exposures, though were epidemiologically linked to the first case, which suggests healthcare-associated spread of the fungus. The second and third cases were identified Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, respectively. 

"Candida auris is an emerging pathogen of concern because it can cause serious infections, particularly in those with serious medical problems, and can be resistant to the antifungal drugs we have to treat it," said Rebecca Pierce, PhD, manager of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the Oregon Health Authority's public health division. "Fortunately, the organism we're dealing with in this outbreak appears to respond to existing treatments. Nonetheless, it's critical that we prevent the spread of the infection." 

The health authority is working with local partners and the CDC on the investigation. Salem Health officials said the system has taken measures to prevent further spread of the fungus, including thorough communication about a patient's C. auris status during facility transfers. The health system is also contacting patients who had a high-risk exposure. 

More than 1,150 clinical cases of C. auris have been reported in the U.S. since 2013, according to the health authority. 

To learn more about C. auris, click here

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