Outbreak of rare drug-resistant 'superbug' hits Oregon hospital as medical workers overwhelmed with Covid response

THREE patients at a hospital have contracted a dangerous fungal infection.

Oregon Health Authority is now investigating an outbreak of Candida auris, a type of yeast rare in the United States.

The state's first-ever case was detected at Salem Health on December 11 and confirmed on December 17 in a patient that had "recent international health care exposures," the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

The second and third cases were identified on December 23 and 27. Investigators suspect a healthcare-associated spread from the first case to the following cases.

Candida auris, or C. auris, is dangerous because it is antibiotic-resistant. It can also be carried on patients' skin without causing infection, which allows it to easily spread to others.

C. auris was first identified in Asia in 2009, but began spreading throughout the United States in 2015. The first cases in the US were found in Washington, DC, and Dallas, Texas, hospitals.

According to the CDC, reported cases of the life-threatening species increased 318% in 2018 when compared to the average from 2015 to 2017.

"Investigators still do not know why four different strains of C. auris emerged around the same time across the globe," the CDC reports. "All four strains have been found in the United States, likely introduced through international travel and subsequent spread in U.S. healthcare facilities."

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Salem Health and OHA are working together to notify health care facilities that received transfer patients from the "affected units" at Salem Health, though it was not immediately clear which hospital units had been affected by the outbreak.

Jasmine Chaudhary, medical director of infection prevention at Salem Health, said that the hospital is taking immediate action on a number of fronts to ensure that the fungus remains contained.

“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 proactive steps include: frequent disinfection of facilities, using transmission-based precautions, and following hand-washing protocols.

Many are worried that this drug-resistant superbug could be the next pandemic.

There have been more than 1,150 identified clinical cases of Candida auris in the US since 2013.

Scientists previously found traces of the virus on sandy beaches.

The hospital has made the news before as one of their former nurses was placed on leave because of a TikTok video.

The outbreak at Salem Health comes as Omicron Covid cases are surging across the US, including in Oregon.

New Covid cases in the US have soared to the highest levels on record – more than 265,000 per day on average – because of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

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