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HealthInfo Canterbury

Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)

What is VRE?

How is VRE detected?

Blood tests or tests on samples such as rectal swabs and wound swabs are used to identify VRE.

How might VRE affect me?

VRE can cause colonisation or infection.

How is VRE spread?

People can become infected by VRE if they touch other people who have the infection or surfaces that are contaminated, and then touch their mouth area without having washed their hands.

VRE is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

Can I spread it to other people?

In hospital, you can potentially spread the bacteria to other patients who are at risk of infection because their body's defence mechanisms are weakened by illness, surgery, medications and procedures.

VRE is not usually a risk to healthy people.

What will happen when I am in hospital?

You will be moved to a single room and placed in contact isolation and/or have your own toilet to reduce the risk of VRE spreading from you to other patients. Hospital staff will wear gloves and gowns or aprons when carrying out certain aspects of your care.

What can I do to prevent spreading it to other people while in hospital?

It is important that you do not visit patients in other parts of the ward or in other wards. You may also be asked not to go into communal areas.

Good hand hygiene is the single most important measure to prevent the spread of VRE within hospitals.

You can help prevent the spread of VRE by cleaning your hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet. Alcohol-based hand rubs or gels are hand cleansers that do not require water and are an excellent alternative to hand washing. They are available for use in all hospital wards and departments.

Encourage everyone who visits, including healthcare workers, to wash their hands after visiting you.

Will it affect my family and friends?

Visitors, including pregnant women and young children, are not at risk from VRE. However, please remind your visitors that they must wash their hands or use the alcohol-based hand rub on leaving your room.

If your visitors have other people they wish to visit in the hospital they should do that before coming to see you.

Your laundry can be washed as usual.

Will VRE prevent me from going home?

VRE will not prevent you from going home. You will be discharged as soon as your general condition allows.

What happens when I go home?

The presence of VRE does not pose a risk to the health of your family and friends when you are at home or at work.

Good hand washing is important for you and everyone else at home. Normal household cleaning practices are sufficient. Towels, clothes, bed sheets and other items can be washed as usual. All utensils and dishes can be washed as usual. Restrictions on activities or visitors to your home are not necessary.

If there is anything else you wish to know, please ask your general practice team.

Written by Infection Prevention and Control Service, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. February 2013.


See also:

Hand hygiene

Page reference: 57598

Review key: HIVRE-57598