No new cases of rare, fungal superbug reported after three cases at Salem hospital in December

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There have been no additional traces of a dangerous fungal infection following three cases at Salem Health last month, Oregon Health Authority officials said Thursday.

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

The first case was detected at Salem Health Dec. 11 and confirmed Dec. 17 in an individual who had "recent international health care exposures," according to health authority officials.

Two already-hospitalized patients then came down with the infection on Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.

Previous coverage: Outbreak of rare, fungal superbug reported at Salem Hospital

Officials with the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the OHA Public Health Division say surveillance testing for Candida auris in patients who had been transferred from the affected units at Salem Hospital to other health care facilities – mostly long-term care – has been negative to date, Oregon Health Authority reported in a release Thursday.

The last round of broad, unit-based testing at the hospital identified no new cases of the infection.

“We are happy to report that as of Jan. 4, the total number of patients in whom Candida auris has been detected remains at three,” said Dat Tran, M.D., medical director for the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program, in a statement.

Program staff continues to work with Salem Health and the regional public health laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to do additional surveillance testing at Salem Hospital to “increase the level of certainty that there has been no further transmission," Tran said.

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

The fungus, also called C. aris, can cause infections in wounds or the bloodstream and is most dangerous for hospital or nursing home patients who have serious medical conditions, weakened immune systems or have tubes or lines entering their body, according to OHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The risk of infection to otherwise healthy people is "extremely low."

Since 2013, about 1,150 clinical cases of Candida auris have been identified in the United States. The CDC describes it as presenting a "serious global health threat."

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

The measures put into effect include: ensuring frequent disinfection of patients' health care environments; using transmission-based precautions for those infected or colonized with candida auris; and adhering to 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 at vbarreda@statesmanjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: No new cases of rare, fungal superbug reported at Salem hospital

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