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Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus


What is a vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE)?

VRE is a strain of bacteria that can cause infection. Usually the antibiotic vancomycin is used to kill the bacteria. However, VRE is resistant to vancomycin and makes it difficult to treat. VRE most commonly causes an infection in the urinary tract, blood, or a wound. VRE infection can easily be spread from person to person. It most often occurs in hospitals.

What increases my risk for a VRE infection?

  • Treatment with vancomycin or other antibiotics for an extended length of time
  • A medical device such as a central line, urinary catheter, or wound drain
  • A weak immune system
  • Age over 55
  • Surgery in your abdomen or chest
  • A long hospital stay or living in a long-term care facility

What else do I need to know about VRE?

You can have an active VRE infection or you can be a carrier of VRE bacteria and not have symptoms.

  • Active VRE infection makes you contagious. This means your infection can spread to another person. VRE spreads if the person touches something that comes in contact with your urine, bowel movements, or infected wound. For example, VRE can be transferred on towels, wash cloths, and surfaces that touch body fluids.
  • VRE bacteria can live in the intestines, urinary tract, vagina, or mouth without causing infection. The bacteria may cause an active infection when the immune system becomes weak and the bacteria spreads. This may happen during an illness, surgery, or treatment with medicines that weaken the immune system.

What are the signs and symptoms of a VRE infection?

Symptoms may depend on where the infection is. You may have any of the following:

  • Fever, chills, and body aches
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Urinating more often than usual or pain when you urinate
  • Urine that smells bad, or blood in your urine
  • Pain or pressure in your abdomen
  • Red, warm skin around a wound, or soreness, swelling, and drainage from a wound

How is a VRE infection diagnosed?

  • Blood tests check for VRE and help healthcare providers plan which antibiotics are best for treatment.
  • A sample of your bowel movement, urine, or wound check for VRE bacteria.

How is a VRE infection treated?

You will not need treatment if you carry the bacteria but do not have an active infection. Antibiotics will be given to treat an active infection. If a medical device has caused your infection, it may be removed or changed.

How do I prevent the spread of VRE?

Do the following if you or someone you care for has an active VRE infection:

  • Wash your hands often. This is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom or touch body fluids such as urine or bowel movement. Wash your hands after you clean an infected wound or change the bandage. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Carry germ-killing gel with you and use it to clean your hands when you do not have soap and water. Tell others to wash your hands after they visit you.
  • Wear disposable gloves when you clean a wound, change a bandage, or handle body fluids. Do this if you care for someone with an active VRE infection. If you are infected with VRE, you do not need to wear gloves. Instead, make sure you wash your hands often. Throw away gloves after you use them. Put on a new pair with each task. Never use the same pair of gloves.
  • Clean bathroom surfaces daily. This includes the counter, bathtub, and shower. Use a bleach-based cleaner. You can also create a cleaning solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
  • Tell all healthcare providers that you have a VRE infection. Healthcare providers will place you in a private hospital room to prevent the spread of infection to others.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel weak, dizzy, or confused.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You have severe pain.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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