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Antimicrobial (Drug) Resistance

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Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent the spread of VRE?

If you or someone in your home has VRE, here are some helpful measures that can help prevent its spread:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before preparing food. Clean your hands after close contact with persons who have VRE. Wash with soap and water (particularly when visibly soiled), or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. 
  • Frequently clean areas of your home, such as the bathroom, which may become contaminated with VRE. Use a household disinfectant or a mixture of one-fourth cup bleach and one quart of water to clean areas and surfaces that are touched frequently. 
  • Wear gloves if you come in contact with body fluids that may contain VRE, such as stool. Always wash your hands after removing gloves. 
  • Be sure to tell any healthcare providers that you have VRE, so that they are aware of your infection.

What should I do if I think I have VRE?

Talk with your healthcare provider and get medical care.

If a patient in a facility is colonized or infected with VRE, what do their visitors or family members need to know?

In general, healthy people are at low risk of getting infected with VRE. Therefore, casual contact, such as kissing, hugging, and touching, is generally safe. Visitors should wash their hands before leaving an infected person’s room. Also, wear disposable gloves if you anticipate contact with body fluids. If excessive contact with body fluids is expected, wear a gown. It is also acceptable for infants and children to have casual contact with these patients.

What precautions should caregivers take when tending to infected persons in their homes?

Outside of healthcare settings, there is little risk of becoming infected with VRE. In the home, the following precautions should be taken:

  • Caregivers should wash their hands with soap and water after physical contact with the infected or colonized person, and before leaving the home. 
  • Towels used for drying hands after contact should be used only once. 
  • Disposable gloves should be worn if contact with body fluids is expected, and hands should be washed after removing the gloves. 
  • Linens should be changed and washed on a routine basis, and if they are soiled. 
  • The patient’s environment should be cleaned routinely, and when soiled with body fluids. 
  • Notify doctors and other healthcare personnel, who provide care for patients, if someone is colonized or infected with a multidrug-resistant organism.

Success stories are encouraging

An Arkansas hospital in 1998 created a program to wipe out VRE by using strict patient containment procedures and thoroughly educating its employees. Among the most effective precautions is handwashing. Though some staff complained that the program was overly complicated and labor intensive, rates of VRE infection dramatically declined.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in late 1996, VRE was first detected in a regional coalition of healthcare facilities—state and local health departments in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Within 6 months, VRE had spread to nearly half of the healthcare facilities in the region. A VRE Task Force began a mitigation program that combined detecting VRE-colonized or -infected patients, using infection-control measures and  appropriate courses of antibiotics. In 2 years, VRE was significantly reduced throughout the region—including a marked reduction in long-term care facilities and elimination in all acute-care facilities.

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Last Updated March 09, 2009