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Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)

|   Question and Answers

VRE? What's that?
The abbreviation stands for Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus. It refers to a germ that lives in the intestines and/or urinary tract. While most of the time enterococcus germs are harmless, occasionally they can contribute to infections in the bloodstream, urinary tract, or skin. Vancomycin is the name of an antibiotic that fights those infections, but some enterococcus bacteria have become immune to vancomycin. These are known as vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, or VREs.

How is VRE treated then?
Vancomycin is not the only antibiotic available. Lab tests can help determine what other antibiotics might be effective against an infectious enterococcus.

How does someone get a VRE infection?
You might be at risk of infection if:

  • you have been treated with vancomycin or another antibiotic for an extended time
  • you have been in the hospital for an extended stay, particularly if you have undergone
    chest or abdominal surgery
  • your immune system is in a weakened state, perhaps as a result of cancer treatments,
    intensive care, or a recent transplant
  • you have some kind of medical device that might increase your exposure to enterococcus
    bacteria – a urinary catheter, for example

Is VRE contagious?
Yes. VRE can be passed along with a simple touch. If you have contact with a contaminated surface, or with someone who has been infected, you can contract the disease yourself.

Can nursing homes prevent the spread of VRE?
Yes, by following these guidelines:

  • Resident rooms should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use.
    Medical equipment should be disinfected after each use.
  • Caregiving staff should routinely wash their hands with soap and water before and after
    each resident – even if they are using gloves.
  • Gowns and gloves may help prevent germs from spreading.
  • In some cases, patients with VRE should be kept in isolation to avoid spreading infection.

Can I prevent the spread of VRE?
You can! Observe these guidelines:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom.
  • Clean your bathroom frequently and thoroughly.
  • Wear rubber gloves if you are dealing with body fluids that might carry VRE (blood or stool,
    for example), and wash your hands after removing the gloves.
  • If you are infected, let people know so they can take precautions against spreading the disease.

Where can I learn more?
Visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov

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