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OHA: No other cases of fungal disease found so far at Salem Health

At least three patients at Salem Health were diagnosed with Candida auris, a rare fungal infection, in late December 2021.

SALEM, Ore. — An Investigation by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) found no other cases of Candida auris so far. 

At least three patients at Salem Health were diagnosed with the rare fungal infection in late December 2021. One person had "recent international health care exposures," the Statesman Journal reported at the time. 

Investigators said testing for Candida Auris, also called C. auris, in patients who were transferred from the affected units to other facilities have not produced positive tests to date. 

“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.

The program will continue to work with Salem Health and the CDC to implement additional surveillance testing at the hospital so there is more confidence the infection is not spreading. 

The risk of infection to otherwise healthy people is also extremely low, officials said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the emerging fungus is a concern because it is often multidrug-resistant, it is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods and it has caused outbreaks in healthcare settings.

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According to OHA, Salem Health will notify facilities when patients are transferred with unknown C. auris statuses from affected units. The hospital has also reportedly taken a number of steps to reduce the risk of transmission. Those include working with patient's care teams to frequently disinfect patients' rooms, using transmission-based precautions for those infected with C. auris, and following proper hand hygiene. 

“No patient harm is acceptable at Salem Health, and we are pleased that our infection prevention protocols are working as intended,” said Jasmin Chaudhary, M.D., medical director of infection prevention at Salem Health. “Though fungi like Candida auris are rare, we are vigilant and prepared to respond when they arrive.” 

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Since 2013, more than 1,150 clinical cases of C. auris have been identified in the U.S. There were never any cases found in Oregon until now. 

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