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Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)

Learning About Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) in the Hospital

What is VRE?

  • Enterococcus is a germ (bacteria) that lives in our large and small bowel.
  • VRE is resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. VRE is one of many antibiotic resistant organisms (AROs).

How does it spread?

  • VRE is found in stool, urine, or wounds. It can live on hard surfaces (e.g., countertops, toilets, equipment) for days, even weeks.
  • It can be spread from person-to-person on hands and equipment that isn’t properly cleaned between uses. This can happen in the community or in healthcare sites; you likely won’t know where you came into contact with VRE.

What do colonization and infection mean?

  • Colonization – This is when the germ is found on your body but doesn’t make you sick. Some people normally have VRE in their body. In this case it’s no more dangerous than any of the other germs we live with. People who are colonized with VRE are sometimes called carriers.
  • Infection – Infection is what happens when a germ makes you sick. Some people may be at more risk for infection. Symptoms may include pain and fever. As with any other type of infection, some VRE infections can become serious.

How is it treated?

  • People who are carriers aren’t usually treated with antibiotics. Colonization with VRE may go away without any treatment.
  • People infected with VRE are often given antibiotics. It’s very important to finish the prescription for antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

What do I do if I have or have had VRE?

  • Let the staff know you have or have had VRE.
    • A sign may be put on your door reminding people to use extra precautions.
    • Caregivers may wear a gown over their clothes and wear gloves.

What can I do to decrease the spread of VRE?

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub (with at least 70% alcohol in it). Antibacterial soaps are not recommended or needed most of the time.
  • Use antibiotics wisely. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop because antibiotics aren’t used or taken properly.
    • Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. They don’t help for colds, the flu, or other viral infections.
    • Take all your antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you don’t finish them, it may not cure your infection.
    • Don’t use other people’s antibiotics. Different antibiotics are meant for different types of bacteria. Using the wrong one helps the germ become resistant to the antibiotic.
  • Don’t share personal items (e.g., towels, clothing, bedding, bar soap, razors, or sports equipment).
  • Wash clothing with regular laundry soap in the regular wash cycle.
  • Clean shared items (e.g., sports equipment or surfaces like counters) with a household disinfectant.
  • See a doctor for any signs of an infection.
  • Cover wounds that are draining with clean, dry dressing.​

Current as of: March 20, 2017

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services