PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — U.S. cases of a dangerous fungus tripled over just three years, and more than half of states have now reported it, according to a new study. But representatives from the Oregon Health Authority said their infections program works with hospitals and long term care facilities to keep cases low and transmissions few.

The fungal pathogen Candida auris, or C. auris, “is often multidrug-resistant,” according to OHA, meaning it is resistant to antifungal drugs commonly used to treat infections related to Candida.

The key, OHA officials said, is early detection and reporting to local health authorities.

A spokesperson for OHA told KOIN 6 News on March 22 there was a single outbreak of Candida auris at an Oregon health care facility that was contained to three cases. Meanwhile, the spokesperson told KOIN 6 News there had been an additional case at an Oregon health care facility in a patient who was an out-of-state resident, and that no spread had been detected.

OHSU officials told KOIN 6 News there have not been any cases reported. They credit their protocols in place along with having the capability to detect the fungus in their own laboratory.

The fungus, Candida auris, is a form of yeast that is usually not harmful to healthy people but can be a deadly risk to fragile hospital and nursing home patients. It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream. Some strains are so-called superbugs that are resistant to all three classes of antibiotic drugs used to treat fungal infections.

It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been seen in more and more countries. The first U.S. case occurred in 2013, but it was not reported until 2016. That year, U.S. health officials reported 53 cases.

The new study found cases have continued to shoot up, rising to 476 in 2019, to 756 in 2020, and then to 1,471 in 2021. Doctors have also detected the fungus on the skin of thousands of other patients, making them a transmission risk to others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.