Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)

What is VRE?
Enterococcus is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tract of people. Vancomycin is an antibiotic, and VRE is a germ that is resistant to Vancomycin. Resistant means that the germ is not killed by Vancomycin, which is commonly used to treat it.

Who gets VRE?
People at risk for VRE tend to be very sick, in the hospital frequently or for long periods, be in intensive care, have serious underlying illnesses such as cancer, and receive many antibiotics. Healthy people are usually not at risk of getting these bacteria.

Where is VRE found?
VRE is usually found in the stool. It can also be present in urine, or other areas of the body. It can cause infections, but most people are just “carrying” the bacteria and do not need any treatment. VRE may also be found on surfaces in hospital rooms near patients with VRE, especially if the patient has loose stools or can’t control their bowels.

How is VRE spread?
It is usually spread by direct contact with hands, environmental surfaces or medical equipment that has been contaminated by feces of an infected person.

Why is contact isolation needed?
Special precautions called Contact Isolation are required to prevent the spread of VRE. Healthcare workers must be especially careful not to carry VRE from patient to patient on their hands or clothing. This is very important for patients in the hospital who tend to be very sick.

What will be different?

  • You will be in a private room.
  • Everyone who enters the room and cares for you will wear gloves and a gown.
  • It is very important for everyone entering and leaving your room to wash or sanitize their hands.
  • A sign indicating Contact Isolation will be placed on your door.

What about family and visitors?
Gowns and gloves are required only if visitors are participating in any of your care, such as handling bed linen, touching any equipment, assisting with toileting or assisting with any personal hygiene. All visitors must wash or sanitize their hands before leaving your room.

What if family or visitors bring in food or beverages?
Any food or beverage containers must be taken home with family or visitors and cannot be left in the refrigerator in the nutrition area that is used by other patients.

What happens when I leave the hospital?
You will not need special precautions or isolation when you go home. It is OK for you to hug or kiss visitors or family members, even children and babies. Remember, good handwashing is always important, and the key to preventing the spread of germs. Handwashing with warm, soapy water for 15 seconds or using an alcohol-based waterless hand sanitizer is always a good idea after eating, after coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom or assisting someone with toileting, and before and after wound dressing or IV care.

Linens or bedclothes soiled with body fluids should be washed in hot, soapy water. No special care is needed with eating utensils or dishes. It is a good idea in general to clean shared toilets with a bleach/water solution if the seat becomes soiled.

Why is home different?
Taking care of several patients increases the likelihood of spreading bacteria in the hospital. Caretakers in the home setting are not usually providing care for several other patients at the same time.

How can you help?

  • Wash your hands often and well.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse any questions you may have. They can discuss your individual concerns with you.
  • In the future, it will be very important for you to tell your healthcare provider that you have a history of VRE. This information will allow healthcare providers to reevaluate your status and use precautions to ensure they do not carry the germ to other patients. So if you go to another doctor or hospital, tell your nurse and doctor that you have had VRE.