The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recently announced that it is investigating an outbreak of the state’s first cases of Candida auris, a serious fungal infection that is often resistant to multiple antifungal medicines.The Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the OHA Public Health Division, working with a regional public health laboratory in Seattle and Salem Hospital, have identified Candida auris in three Salem Health patients. The first case was detected at Salem Hospital Dec. 11 in a patient who had recent international healthcare exposures, and confirmed Dec. 17. Candida auris has only recently appeared in the United States.
Two of the cases did not have international healthcare exposures but had epidemiologic links to first case, indicating healthcare-associated spread of Candida auris to the second and third patients, which were identified Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, respectively.
“Candida aurisis 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, Healthcare-Associated Infections Program manager. “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.”
Jasmin Chaudhary, medical director of infection prevention at Salem Health, said the health system is taking action on a number of fronts to prevent the spread of Candida auris at Salem Hospital.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in multi-drug resistant organisms around the world and nationwide, and Salem is not immune,” Chaudhary said. “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. These include proactive steps that will assist in preemptively identifying new cases to prevent spread.”
Among the measures in effect: working with the patients’ care teams to ensure frequent and effective disinfection of the healthcare environment; using transmission-based precautions for those infected or colonized with Candida auris; adhering to hand hygiene protocols; and conducting effective interfacility-transfer communication about a patient’s Candida auris status when being transferred to another health care facility.
Candida auris is a type of yeast that can cause severe illness, particularly those suffering from serious medical conditions in hospitals and nursing homes. The risk of Candida auris infection to otherwise healthy people, including healthcare personnel, is extremely low.The fungus can cause serious infections, including bloodstream infections and wound infections.